- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
Welcome to 2008, the year of the friend. This year it’s not about what you like or are interested in, it’s what you will show interest in because your friends thought you should. Toluu has launched to help us with this task. It’s simple to use: pop in your feed list (also known as OPML), add your friends and Toluu does its magic. It then provides you with a list of suggested feeds that you should be reading or might be interested in based on your friends. And there’s an activity/news feed.
Louis Gray, who has become a leader in the area of feed discovery has an in-depth review of Toluu. Gray chatted with the founder of Toluu Caleb Elston who mentioned, "I set out to create a site that was focused on sharing the feeds you read with friends and discovering new interesting feeds. I did not want to create another feed reader, there are many fantastic feed readers out there and new ones being launched and updated everyday." Another service working with feed discovery is FeedHub (our coverage).
Toluu offers an export which allows you to take the new OPML and pop it back into your selected feed reader. There’s no talk of a business model yet but my guess is that sponsored feeds could be suggested with your friend’s suggestions.
Each friend I checked out basically had the same recommendations for me. Frankly what I’d prefer to see is a profile tool that asks me questions about who I am and what I am interested in. After completing the survey it displays potential new friends and their feeds that I might be interested in. If it’s about discovery, the odds are my current friends will have 75-85% of the same feeds I alread read.
I am all for content discovery, but to keep it limited to friends is a bit boring, and will produce limited results. I am guessing some sort of leaderboard is only a few weeks away.
The recommendations market continues to grow as more content hits the Web. Each service has a slightly different take on how to solve the problem. FeedHub is a company that launched last September at DEMO and tackles recommendations with regards to feed management. I met with FeedHub VP Business Development and Product Management Sean Ammirati last week at my office to discuss the product updates launching today. Sean started by explaining that FeedHub’s mission is to "do recommendations really, really well."
First they have added a thumbs up/down rating to every post inside of the customized feed they provide for you. This helps FeedHub to contiunously keep adjusting the recommendations based on your likes and dislikes. The second part is very cool and actually got me thinking about how else it could be applied. If you use Firefox to read your feeds and use Bloglines, NewsGator Online or Google Reader, they have created an extension which allows you to hit the thumbs without it loading another browser window. Sean says they are working with other feed readers to add this type of functionality as well. One can only hope that we get some updates to how feeds are handled with regards to monetization.
Here is an example of the thumbs using Google Reader:
Part two of the service update is around categorization. They have switched the taxonomy from DMOZ to begin leveraging Wikipedia for category memes. Lastly, they are using microformats to recommend posts with significantly more comments than are typical for other posts from that source.
Here’s an overview video the FeedHub team created to show you how to use the Firefox extension:
Hot off the Web 2.0 conference last week, I had a quick chat with the CEO of Mspoke, Dave Mawhinney. Mspoke are the makers of FeedHub, a tool that launched at DEMO and helps you sort through the feeds that you don’t follow every moment but those that you want just the good bits from. Here are my notes from our chat (the last part about revenue is especially interesting):
Dave began the conversation with an update on FeedHub which Dave says is going very well. They are working hard to keep up with demand and to deliver highly relevant information. He thanked the FeedHub users for being patient as they scale up the technology. The more you use FeedHub, the smarter the "adaptive" engine knows about you and they are working to improve the social contract.
Dave called RSS the, "Middleware for Media," which is a great way to describe where RSS is headed. You can read my earlier article about why RSS is currently broken and looking at it as a media tool and not as much a technology tool makes sense. He went on to describe RSS as an exchange of structured information with mashups being the most simple example.
Dave believes that RSS enables better collaboration and I would add that it has created new streams of collaboration.
We discussed revenue models from RSS and tools that enable RSS and Dave offered three methods – two of which are available today:
Burned into the post – FeedBurner and Text Link Ads "Feedvertising" programs do this today though the take rate is very low
Sponsored posts – A full post in the RSS feed which is sponsored drives additional revenue to the media entity – I see this method growing over time
This third method was new to me – and could be a bit controversial but in any case it is a very interesting model. You read a post on CN in your RSS reader (i.e. FeedHub/Snarfer/Google Reader) and inside the story is a link to Read/WriteWeb (RWW). Since FeedHub knows who you are, when you click the link, it sends you to RWW along with a token about who you are. Then RWW can serve the correct ad to you based on who you are versus just an anonymous Internet visitor. Since the targeted ad pays more than a default, the revenue upside would be shared between RWW, CN and FeedHub. Again, this isn’t used today but is an interesting model to consider. What this means is that the RSS reader tools will play a larger role in their function as not just to read and link but to read, link and provide info.
Thanks to Dave for spending a few minutes with me.
Alright so sometimes some of the apps I review are hard to explain. But this one launching at DEMO is easy! Feedhub is a RSS tool to help you sort through the feeds that you don’t follow every moment but those that you want just the good bits from. They are working to save time for people who have too many feeds by creating one feed delivering the most relevant content. Their tagline is, "We don’t make the feedreader… we make it smarter!" It works with all of the major readers and takes your OPML file and generates a new Feedhub feed which you plug into your feed reader.
I spoke with Sean Ammirati, VP of Business Development for mSpoke, parent of Feedhub and he took me though the Mpower adaptive personalization engine. What I like is that you can tweak and adjust the rules in the areas that you are interested in. It’s based on "memes" or topics which you can move into groupings from love to no-show. They are working to create a personal TechMeme which can find new feeds and also allow you to pick how many items from your selected topics per feed.
Feedhub is going after the early adopter crowd and their long-term business plan is an ad-supported model. What I don’t fully understand is why they aren’t looking to take over all my feeds. I get the idea of managing the hundreds of feeds I might only click once a week, but wouldn’t the personalization engine work better across my main reads as well?
One of the concerns I raised on the call was around feed analytics. I wrote earlier this month about the fun that can be had with the FeedBurner chicklets. My wonder is how will a feed be reported if it is part of an overall Feedhub feed. While not a big conern today, if/when this app takes off, it certainly could be.
The Feedhub team is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you know, the place where great Web technology is made :)
Here is a sample screenshot from the page where you organize the Memes: