The Big Idea at Springpad
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an ad for a product like Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese on the same page with your recipe file.
Your next step might be to add the lasagna recipe to your weekly meal planner. Springpad offers a predesigned template for just that purpose, and it includes a handy shopping-list function that compiles all of the ingredients for the week’s recipes into one master list. To help seal the Grated Parmesan deal, Kraft might serve up a $1-off coupon alongside the shopping list—right at the moment you’re most likely to be paying the most attention.
“For most brands today, their participation in social media and Web 2.0 is more ‘alongside’ than it is integrated,” Janer says. But in the Parmesan example, he says, the advertising ties directly into the task, and everyone benefits. “Kraft is establishing a communications channel. The original publisher of the recipe, because they are providing the content, gets a share of the ad revenue. And the consumer isn’t seeing some random ad for whiter teeth; they’re saying ‘I want to cook this recipe’ and they’re getting an offer that makes it even more enticing.”
A zippy mobile-friendly version of the Springpad Web tools, introduced a couple of weeks ago, lets you take all the shopping info you collect on Springpad straight into the grocery store on your phone. The mobile version doesn’t yet include the ads and coupons, but that isn’t far off—the Spring Partners team, after all, is mostly made up of former executives and developers from Third Screen Media, the Boston-based mobile advertising company that AOL snapped up in 2007.
The “Parmesan pattern” of engagement between consumers and brands could play out in any number of market categories. If you’re using Springpad to organize your kitchen renovation project, for example, it’s easy to imagine appliance makers and home supply stores competing for a chance to share their ideas and product offers.
The beauty of the Springpad platform is that it’s basically agnostic about the types of information users put into it. Janer and his developers programmed the site so that users can build customized notebooks, called springpads, around almost any conceivable task. And in the near future, Janer says, the company will provide programming interfaces so that outside developers can create fancier springpads that integrate with their own websites and services.
There’s a lot about the Springpad platform I don’t have time to describe here—for example, the ability to follow other users the way you would on Twitter or Facebook and import whatever data they’re sharing publicly, such as their favorite recipes, into your own springpads.
The big challenges for Spring Partners—which collected a Series A venture round from Cambridge, MA-based Fairhaven Capital in June 2008 and plans to go for a B round in the fourth quarter of this year—are to demonstrate in at least one or two niches that these tools have real value to both users and advertisers, and then to parlay that into specialized deals across the consumer-product universe. For instance, Janer is working with Gary Vaynerchuck, the publisher of the popular Wine Library TV wine video blog, to put “Spring It” buttons alongside the lists of wines Vaynerchuck reviews.
Beyond the culinary cases, the company is busy pitching Springpad as a story-planning tool for the growing community of mommybloggers, women who blog about parenting issues. Springpad is a sponsor of the BlogHer ’09 conference coming up later this month in Chicago, and has created a BlogHer ’09 event-planner springpad where conference-goers can grab data on specific events for their personal calendars. The company is also wooing specific brands and advertisers such as Kraft, as well as publishers like Scripps and Gannett.
At its most basic level, says Janer, the Springpad platform is about collecting and sharing reusable information that applies to real life tasks. But a tool without a revenue stream is just a toy, which is why Spring Partners has put so much effort into making springpads advertiser-friendly. “We think we’ve cracked the nut on a personal organizer that enables not only consumers, but also publishers and advertisers, to derive value,” Janer says.