Intellext, Inc. is a technology company that has provided tools that discover information for people rather than making them search for it. Its downloadable Watson desktop product, first launched in 2005, worked in the background and automatically presented users with relevant content from multiple online and offline sources (see the NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=19446). The company has now changed its name to MediaRiver (www.mediariver.com) and is putting its full energies into marketing a new Web services product that uses the core technology behind Watson. ClickSurge, MediaRiver’s new offering, enables Web publishers to guide Internet users to the publishers’ online content in a discovery-based contextual model— allowing content of any type, including video, music, pictures, or text, to be linked onto any Web page dynamically based on the unique properties of that page.
"As the digital media landscape grows increasingly crowded, driving new visitors to Web properties and maximizing the time those users spend on those Web properties is paramount for generating revenue," said Al Wasserberger, CEO of MediaRiver. "With ClickSurge, content publishers are able to quickly and easily connect the right audience to the right content at the right time, dramatically improving unique user counts and page views per visit."
Wasserberger said that its desktop product had been bringing in income. (The company offered Watson in ad-supported, subscription, and license models.) "We’ve been doing ‘pretty good’ with offering a free version of Watson, but pretty good isn’t good enough." The company also had private-label agreements with eWEEK and with AOL@SCHOOL for a Desktop Sidebar. But, he said, they realized the technology could be repurposed to address a much greater need to drive traffic and revenue for Web publishers—and offer a much better revenue model for MediaRiver. He admitted the desktop model also had faced somewhat of a challenge in getting end users to download and try the product. But, he said that it was likely the company would introduce another desktop iteration at some point. The company will continue to provide free email support to existing users of Watson, which he said number a "couple hundred thousand."
Widgets built on the ClickSurge platform can quickly scan the contents of a Web page and search for related content, placing links to that content onto Web pages in a small box at a publisher’s site or at a partner’s site. Publishers can create revenue-producing partnerships. Here’s how MediaRiver describes it: "Widgets can help you get the right content placed on your partner’s Web sites, sending more traffic back to you. Have your partner include related links that drive people back to your content. Or switch it around and use it to generate extra revenue from your highly-trafficked Web site by creating related links that show your partner’s content."
The Motley Fool (www.fool.com) and Clubplanet (www.clubplanet.com) have already implemented ClickSurge on their sites. Within the next few weeks, the RevolutionHealth.com and Haystack.com sites will be live with the product. Wasserberger also said that some "big-brand" announcements would be coming soon.
"When Motley Fool discovered ClickSurge, we recognized its potential to virally distribute our content to investors all over the Internet while increasing traffic to our monetized content," said John Keeling, senior vice president of Fool.com. "With ClickSurge, we look to multiply page views throughout our network of sites. The platform will be a key way to expand our online audience."
For an example of how a widget has been "grabbed" and placed on another site, see The Motley Fool content box on this finance blog: www.in2finance.blogspot.com. Clicking on the "grab" in the lower-left corner will show the script. Viewers can click on recent videos and articles related to the topic of the blog entry.
"People online are experiencing links to rich, relevant content. Once engaged, they are likely to click through to a publisher’s various properties," said Art Chang, CEO of social network Haystack.com and founder of venture capital firm Tipping Point Partners, LLC. "ClickSurge is the ideal platform for presenting our content to new audiences, driving syndication deals and creating a compelling online experience that keeps users on Haystack.com longer."
I asked Wasserberger whether a good content management system (CMS) would suffice for providing cross-linking capabilities for Web publishers. He said they could help but are fairly limited. "First of all, they are all strictly ‘on-site’—in other words, they can only point to other pages on the same site, or in the same CMS. ClickSurge adds a new dimension—an ‘off-site’ strategy, giving a web property the ability to make their content available ANYWHERE—on their website, on partners’ sites (content syndication), or as part of a viral strategy. Also, today’s CMS platforms are still primarily text-only based, without the ability to mix media of different types. ClickSurge gives media companies the ability, using their existing media search technology, to link video, picture, music, text, or hybrid content to any page. Finally, we now live in a world of user generated content (UGC), where users post their own media, comment on articles and posts, and otherwise contribute to the overall site experience. Linking a publisher’s content to UGC so that a blog post can drive page views on the core site, or that traffic to the UGC can be driven from edited articles is beyond the capabilities of even today’s modern content management systems."
There is no upfront cost for a Web publisher to get started with ClickSurge. Instead, the publisher pays only a percentage of the new revenue realized from new traffic to their Web properties. Wasserberger said the revenue share is usually 35 percent for MediaRiver and 65 percent for the publisher. He said after signing a contract, a Web publisher could be up and running with ClickSurge in just a few days.Reduced advertising revenues for traditional print products have prompted publishers to initiate new strategies for generating revenues online. With Web publishers looking to deploy technologies that can increase the profitability of content and extend their brands to new markets, it looks like MediaRiver is right in the flow. Rachel Happe, a research manager at IDC, said that there are other technology providers trying to attack the same problem in different ways. But, she said that MediaRiver is providing publishers with an automated option to mine a rich set of content quickly and efficiently. She offered one suggestion for MediaRiver: Partner with other providers of related technology offerings to be more attractive to Web publishers—and make it easier to swim upstream.