Many online publishers still put a lot of effort into building and rebuilding topic menus – it’s tough to get out of the old “table of contents” mindset, isn’t it? But the real key to site stickiness and depth of engagement is to flag related content. If I clicked on a news story about a local election, I’m likely to be interested in other stories about the same election. I’m also likely to want to connect with other readers who are interested in the topic to debate the results of the election or help organize a get-out-the vote campaign.
That’s where a young company called Searchles comes in. Based on technology developed by founder and CTO Chris Seline and backed by angel investors, the company’s mission is to marry elements of social bookmarking, search and networking (Search + Circles = Searchles –get it?) to connect users with relevant content and a relevant network of other users. The benefit to publishers: increased stickiness and engagement, and, potentially, increased revenue through a revenue share model (more on that later).
Today the company has announced the release of its plug-and-play Related Content widget, which it promises is seriously easy to install (we’ll try it out on Social Media at Work and let you know). The open platform widget automatically spiders the site on which it’s installed, with no need for tagging or content linking on the part of the publisher, and then automatically delivers related content and networking features across the site.
What’s new is not only how easy it now is to showcase related content (no more clunky inflexible content management systems!!!), but also the types of content that the widget can flag. Related articles, forum posts, blog posts, comments, users, communities, categories can all be highlighted, allowing sites to promote their own content but also any content generated by their users, in addition to connecting like-minded users to each other.
The widget comes pre-populated with advertising content, and Searchles is promoting a revenue-share model, which essentially puts to company into competition with all of the online ad networks for a shrinking pool of ad dollars. Advertisers will be skeptical of yet another untested model, and continue to raise concern about having their ad appear next to un-vetted content. That said, if the company’s search technology is as powerful as it claims, the potential to deliver highly relevant ads could make them very compelling. (Another model might be for marketers to use the technology to spider their own content libraries, and then serve links to relevant content on the advertiser’s site, which would be more valuable to the user vs. just seeing an ad … )
The company is still at an early stage, but it does boast The Denver Post as a client, although I couldn’t yet find the technology implemented on the paper’s site at denverpost.com, and Mashables reported last July that The Washington Post was using its technology on its social networking pages.
Let us know what you think of the concept – and if you see the widget start to appear on any sites!