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My Chat With Outbrain – Rating Widget for Blogs
This morning I met with Yaron Galai and John LoGioco from Outbrain. Located in NYC are Yaron, CEO and John, Director of Business Development. The balance of the team is located in Israel.
The most basic description is that Outbrain is a voting widget for your blog and RSS feed. You add a simple script to your template and then Outbrain will allow readers to rate your content with a simple voting mechanism. You can see a demo below or on Yaron's blog. John described Outbrain as a company that, "makes sense of content."
There are already loads of voting widgets, so what makes Outbrain unique? The most unique feature from what I can tell is their collaborative filtering. Yaron describes it as, "People who liked this, also liked X – the outbrain API provides full support for collaborative filtering allowing you to suggest more recommended links based on the post being viewed by the user." Yaron notes that it's similar in ways to Amazon’s product ratings, or Netflix ratings or Pandora.
Other features include:
- Average score – Provide users with the average score (on a 5-star scale) for each post they’re reading. Providing this community based score can significantly help users to quickly find the most interesting stories in the RSS aggregator.
- Sort items by popularity – Currently most feed readers allow users to sort posts by date. This is comparable to sorting the search results on Google randomly rather than by relevancy. Using the outbrain API partners can provide users with a ‘sort feed by popularity’ functionality.
- Personalized scores and recommendations – For users registered with outbrain, all the scores provided back via the API can be personalized based on their rating history and the ratings of like minded users.
The other interesting part of Outbrain is that the ratings widget will also work on RSS feeds. Their first two partners are FeedBlitz (feeds to email) and Snarfer (desktop RSS app).
The company is funded which seems like overkill honestly. Yaron noted that the funding came half from the product quality and half from his prior track record. I am guessing that the funding will help them market the widget and get it on some prominent blogs.
They are looking into sponsored messaging as the revenue model. So when you see the collaborative filtering results, a sponsored link might be included. John noted that the widget is not branded because they believe that it will speak for itself.
My last suggestion to Outbrain was to look at making the number of voters optional. I explained my post, "Don't Publicize How Small You Are," and there is really no need to display how many people voted for an article.
I think the combination of voting and filtering should prove beneficial for readers and bloggers. For a blogger, they can tell which content appeals best to their readers and by making it a simple vote, many readers should participate. For Outbrain to be successful, they will need large numbers of bloggers and voters. Otherwise the system won't work as created. The other challenge will be market differentiation.
Another site in this arena is JS-Kit which received huge net buzz when they re-launched in April.