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Inform Announces New Publisher Services and Initial Customers
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Posted On July 31, 2006
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Inform Technologies, LLC (http://www.inform.com) has introduced Inform Publisher Services, which provides publishers and media companies with a "high-service, low-cost" technology solution for making their sites more accessible and engaging for readers. The new Web service application is designed to help publishers leverage existing editorial assets, drive incremental page views, and strengthen brand loyalty. It helps a site establish itself as a news destination, rather than just being relegated to a search result at a search engine like Google. The new service employs algorithms, ontological structure, and natural language processing to provide automatic entity extraction, metatagging, and related content linking for sites. Inform also announced its first six customers for Publisher Services: Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), The New York Sun, The Oklahoman, The Huffington Post, The Deal LLC, and NameMedia.

News sites have struggled with readers who click to their sites to read an article and then click away to do further research and topic-based surfing on search engines. Inform's solution aims to counter that by providing the "stickiness" and "relatedness" needed to keep readers interested.

"We're always in search of innovative ways to engage users and lead them deeper into our quality content," said Caroline Little, CEO and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, whose sites include washingtonpost.com, newsweek.com, Slate, and BudgetTravelOnline.com. "By working with companies like Inform, we will make our content easier to find and read, which keeps readers engaged longer, drives more traffic, and ultimately helps us make more money."

Inform's technology does concept mapping—it understands the meaning and context of content. It identifies content by person, place, product, organization, company, and topic and then surfaces these aspects within the search results. A pane on the left side of a search results screen (or anywhere a publisher specifies) highlights these aspects and lets users click to navigate further. Names, places, etc., within the articles themselves are live links, allowing users to click to further information. The pane also presents related content—from that site, from an archive, from affiliated sites or publications as designated by the publisher, and from the Web. The goal is to optimize a publisher's own content and enable cross promotion of content from sister publications and sites. It also delivers links to a diverse range of Web content, as desired, including articles, blogs, audio, and video.

Inform's service can also offer sites the ability to create and update special report sections, such as covering a topical issue or breaking news. It can also produce automated news verticals, such as for health.

"Search engines are beating us in our local market," said Kelly Dyer Fry, director of multimedia for NewsOK.com, which is powered by The Oklahoman and NEWS 9. "Inform gives us a chance to win back those ad dollars and more—it's like I've hired 30,000 journalists to generate and relate content from our site, archives, and the Web. Now, readers can click several layers deep on any topic, turning a single page view into three-to-five. And, if they want more news, we point them to articles on the Web."

Fry said they first worked on the NewsOK.com infrastructure, adding new servers and more bandwidth, in anticipation of additional page views. "Once we got our new infrastructure in place, the Inform implementation went smoothly. We worked closely with their staff to make this seamless to our users," she said. Editors used to embed links manually. Now, this process is automated and provides a much-expanded universe of content for site visitors. NewsOK.com was able to make choices about Web sites to include and exclude, for example, the site links to newspaper sites from nearby towns but does not link to video from a local TV competitor's site. Fry added: "The reader is the big winner here. They will get expanded info that is not only organized and categorized, but very broad in nature. It includes audio, blogs, videos … it is very thorough. We will now be more than a news destination—Inform makes us more of a news experience."

Augie Fields, general manager, The New York Sun, said: "We chose Inform because we thought they offered the most robust solution in the marketplace. Based on our review of Inform and competing products, we were convinced of their ability to offer a deeper and more meaningful experience for our viewers."

A newly launched version of Inform.com serves as a showcase site for the company's technology, as well as providing free news aggregation. The company said it provides a glimpse into the online "newspaper of the future." In the future, the site may add some premium functionality that would require a small fee. The site currently offers a 4-day news archive but plans on increasing this over time.

According to Peter Longo, Inform's senior vice president of business development and client services, as the company worked with the content from various publishers for the free site, it realized it could offer affordable services to individual publishers and media sites. "We have the ability to make this available to small publishers at an affordable cost, as well as scale to the needs of a large company like the Washington Post. A publisher can work with Inform for as little as thousands of dollars per month."

Longo said that its Publisher Services provides easy integration and works hand-in-hand with a publisher's content management system. He said the key differentiators for Inform's solution are precision (based on 2 years of perfecting its algorithms to provide clean and comprehensive results), timeliness (Inform can be up and running in weeks, not months or years), and cost.

Founded in 2004, Inform is a privately held company with approximately 60 employees, including programmers, linguists, taxonomists, library scientists, mathematicians, and other professionals based in New York and India. Inform was founded by the same team behind Capital IQ, a software and information company that served the corporate finance industry. Capital IQ was sold to McGraw Hill in 2004.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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