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Facebook's instant articles a costly mistake, says Taboola CEO

Taboola CEO Adam Singolda on advertising, Libra and the tech crackdown
Key Points
  • Facebook's missteps, as well as its sheer size, invited scrutiny, says Taboola CEO.
  • Tech crackdown could lead to more opportunities for small companies to enter the advertising space.
  • Facebook's decision to get into cryptocurrency was ill-timed considering the controversies around it. 

Facebook's relationships with publishers have evolved into a huge misstep for the company, Taboola CEO Adam Singolda told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

"When I look at some of the past initiatives, like instant articles for publishers, when they host content within Facebook versus allowing traffic to go back to journalism, to me that was a mistake," Singolda told "Squawk Box" Thursday. "That mistake cost a lot to journalism."

The Department of Justice has opened a broad antitrust review of Facebook and other tech companies. Facebook recently reached an agreement with the FTC to pay a $5 billion fine, to settle on privacy violations, something CEO Mark Zuckerberg explicitly mentioned in Facebook's earnings call late Wednesday. The social media giant has also been criticized for its political advertising and spread of fake news ahead of the 2016 elections.

Singolda said the sheer size of Facebook makes it worth a "worth a look."

"When you're so big, even a mistake that happens by mistake is significant."

Taboola is an advertising company that integrates monetized primary and third-party content onto publisher's sites. Reaching over 44% of the worldwide internet, the company partners with over 10,000 digital properties, including CBSi, Microsoft, Le Figaro, and CNBC and NBCNews.

Singolda sees a crackdown on Facebook as possibly opening more opportunities for ad revenue to be spread around other players.

"We're seeing a slew of new companies that are going public...and companies like us, that are still small, only a little over a billion dollars in revenue, give small businesses and brands an opportunity to maybe explore other options," he said.

Singolda is optimistic about Slack, Pinterest, and the other new tech IPOs. The advertising CEO sees them as a way to refresh what is becoming a stale business model for big tech.

"Google is facing their own Facebook moment with advertising slowing down," Singolda said. "They might have to introduce some sort of Libra/Calibra initiation of their own, trying to look for the next search engine type of growth."

Singolda calls Facebook's Libra a long shot.

"With a company like Facebook, that really owns their arpu (average return per user) ...why launch Libra? Why do it unless you know something that we don't know? Unless you need some sort of growth engine that goes beyond advertising?"

Facebook's answer to cryptocurrencies has also been under scrutiny, after going through multiple hearings by the House of Representatives, which has focused on privacy and the possibility for misuse. As Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general are getting questioned by many parties, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Singolda questions Facebook's decision to enter into the space.

"It makes sense to enable payments. Why get into crypto, why getting into something that's so controversial...from my perspective, Calibra makes sense. Libra, I would skip it."