Swedish startup Strossle wants to help publishers beat the Google-Facebook duopoly


Stockholm-based media tech startup Strossle is building a publisher network, currently European publishers, that can help content creators and publishers reduce their dependence on Google and Facebook.

At a glance 

Startup: Strossle

Founders: Magnus Hultman, Jens Ander, Dan Willstrand, and Johan Unger

Year it was founded: 2013

Where it is based: Stockholm

The problem it solves: AI-driven publisher network

Sector: Media/advertising

Funding raised: 5 million Euros 

In the year 2000, around 90 percent of all traffic to publishers was direct; today it is less than 30 percent on an average. The rest comes from mainly two platforms - Google and Facebook. Google and Facebook account for 99 percent of online advertising growth. Can publisher collaboration help beat the duopoly of these digital behemoths? Strossle believes that, through its platform publishers, it can build a cross-promotion network, where they recommend their best content on affiliated media sites.

Strossle was founded in 2013 by Magnus Hultman, Jens Ander, Dan Willstrand and Johan Unger. 

“At the time we started, it was obvious that publishers were losing ground to Facebook and Google. These platforms had understood the value of using data to customise the experience for their users. We started Strossle because we wanted to give publishers the technology to provide their readers a more relevant experience,” Magnus says. 

“No single publishing house has the technical budget, reach, and data to compete with global consumer platforms such as Facebook. But together, they represent a massive chunk of the time people spend online. Strossle’s platform allows publishers to collaborate around reach and data, to take the advertising money back from the duopoly (Facebook and Google),” he adds.

At the core of Strossle is Artificial Intelligence for media, a proprietary platform that uses machine learning and massive amounts of data to make sure every user is presented with an optimal mix of content and ads.

This differentiates Strossle from other publisher networks.

Strossle’s publishing network is called The Accelerator. Strossle has produced a Publisher Approval Checklist that all affiliated partners must comply with. They must have at least 50 percent original content and must follow their content ethics policy. Zoznam, Berlingske, Ringier Axel Springer, Stampen, TV2, Egmont, and Aller are some of the publishers that work with Strossle. More than 250 media sites were part of the Strossle network at the end of 2017. Strossle claims users arriving from other media sites spend 120 percent more time and read 40 percent more articles than users coming from social media. 

Using algorithms, Strossle picks out the best content from publishers and recommends it to an interested audience across the web. The startup has a patented text prediction technology that transforms text to numbers that correlate with preferred outcome. These numeric representations of text are then used in combination with normal numerical data to make the best predictions using machine learning. The technology is language independent and fully automated.

Strossle offers publishers a data-driven distribution platform with three major benefits: 

Increased user engagement: By recommending the most relevant content in each situation, publishers will make readers consume more content, stay longer. 

New revenues: Strossle sells sponsored recommendations to brands, and all revenues are shared with the publishers. 

New unique users: Publishers using Strossle are invited to share traffic with each other. This reduces their dependence on Facebook and Google. 

On the advertising front, Strossle’s platform applies data and browsing habits to recommend advertisers content to the right people in a native context, on media sites. It claims to deliver a higher share of new visitors than other channels such as social and search. By delivering users that are in content consumption mode, they spend more time with publisher content and bounce less. 

Strossle has seen a growth of nearly 100 percent every year since its launch. In 2017, the startup claimed revenue of 10 million euros and around 1,500 publisher partners. With 10 offices in Europe and 65 employees, Strossle has raised funding of 5 million euros from Spintop, ALMI and angels.

Strossle is not the only company that is trying to make a dent in the business of the ‘walled gardens’. New-York based Sonobi announced in June 2017, that it has integrated 50 percent of Comscore 250 publishers into its platform. Verizon’s Oath which includes AOL and Yahoo, has plans to use its data to help publishers and advertisers beat the duopoly. News Corp, Amazon, AT&T, and Snap are the other companies with access to data that can play a big role in their space.