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Interview With ReadBurner Owner Adam Ostrow
ReadBurner was acquired a month ago by Mashable Editor Adam Ostrow. ReadBurner relaunched yesterday — check out the coverage on SheGeeks, DownloadSquad, Louis Gray, VentureBeat and ReadWriteWeb. I had a chance to speak with Ostrow last night and here is a transcript of our conversation regarding ReadBurner and the acquisition.
Allen: What is ReadBurner?
Adam: ReadBurner looks at data from link blogs created by Google Reader users and analyzes which stories are most popular (by # of times it is shared). Once we’ve established what’s popular, we allow users to filter that data by category (web, desktop, mobile, etc.) and timespan (upcoming, most recent, etc.). We’ll also show you related stories and let users leave comments on them via our integration with Disqus.
Adam: I’m really hot on the prospects of the so-called aggregation space – making sense of the tremendous amount of content that sites like Mashable, CenterNetworks, and hundreds of others are churning out. Further, Google Reader has always (well, since it came out) been one of my favorite pieces of software, so the idea of building something that leverages data from Google Reader was quite exciting.
I’d read about ReadBurner on a bunch of different blogs and been using it fairly regularly, so when I found out it was shutting down, I decided to make a move on it right away. It was also important to me that Alex, the original creator of the site, stay on board, and, we were able to work that into the deal and happy to report that he was a key part of launching the new ReadBurner this week and will continue to work on the project in his spare time.
The bottom line is I thought that owning a site that I actually find useful in my every day work (editor at Mashable) might be kind of cool :-)
Allen: How much did you acquire ReadBurner for? A range is fine.
Adam: Somewhere between $1 and $10,000,000 :-) It wasn’t that much money compared to most of the deals we talk about in the blogosphere, but it did represent a significant portion of my savings. If someone was managing my money professionally, they’d probably tell me I am no longer very well-diversified.
Allen: You relaunched the service this week – what should CN readers know about the update?
Adam: There is a ton of new stuff, which I outlined in a blog post yesterday. I think your readers will most enjoy the shiny new interface (very CN-like!), the integration with Google Reader so you can access your feeds without leaving our site, and our category filters so you can view only Web news stories if you prefer.
Allen: Can you share some details on the service usage?
Adam: Since we just launched yesterday, there isn’t a whole lot to share about usage yet. I do know that we now have more than 300,000 shared items in our system.
Allen: How do you plan to monetize ReadBurner?
Adam: If you look at what PopURLs just did with Intel, that’s the type of thing I think we can make a lot of money with; sponsored channels that show shared items data in a very specific vertical. We obviously need to grow our userbase and perfect our algorithms though before this is feasible.
Allen: While I have you, what’s your thoughts on the tech blogosphere? What’s the current trend? Where’s it going in 2008?
Adam: The current trend definitely seems to be towards more thoughtful analysis of the news. While breaking a big story will always be important, with aggregators like TechMeme (and now ReadBurner!) increasing in popularity, people have immediate access to dozens of sources for any given story. Readers will start to gravitate more towards the brands (Mashable, Center Networks, etc.) and people (Adam Ostrow, Allen Stern, etc.) that present the news in the reader’s preferred style.
At the same time, there’s definitely a lot of talk about the tech blogosphere being an echo-chamber, but I think that’s where sites like ReadBurner, RSSMeme, FriendFeed, etc. become valuable – cutting through the clutter and letting readers determine what’s important. This is how someone like Louis Gray can come out of nowhere to become Scoble’s "favorite blogger" in a matter of months.
Allen: Which blogs are you reading outside of tech?
Adam: Egotastic, TMZ, Perez Hilton … I’m a celebrity gossip whore.