If You Like Jennifer Aniston, You Won’t Like This Article About Reverb

3/12/13Follow @wroush

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recency or popularity, or sometimes just random chance. Some sites aim even lower, replacing or supplementing links to their own content with pay-per-click ads that link to outside content of, shall we say, questionable relevance.

“We call that the lowest common Jennifer Aniston,” McKean jokes. “It seems like a win-win for us if publishers can get greater engagement without having to farm out the bottom of each page to low-quality links. Why wouldn’t you want to give readers more of what they’re interested in, instead of getting paid pennies to show the latest fat-burning tricks?”

McKean says the recommended articles on her fashion blog have a click-through rate averaging 7 percent, which is astronomical in the world of Web publishing.  “It’s lovely to not have your past content not fall off into the abyss,” she says. Other sites such as AccessArt, a U.K.-based site on visual arts education, and 29erCafe.com, a mountain-bike review site, report click-through rates of 5 to 13 percent the first time a reader is shown a Reverb-recommended article, and even higher on the second and third impressions in a sequence.

In addition to widgets that work with WordPress, Tumblr, TypePad, Blogger, and other major content platforms, Reverb supplies application programming interfaces that developers can use to tap the company’s matching technology in other ways. The startup doesn’t charge for access, preferring to build up the quality of its own word and article database by keeping the barriers to usership low.

“For now the goal is really to improve the matching engine, to understand content using click-throughs as our proxy for understanding user intent,” Tam says. “For monetization, you will see more stuff coming from us.”

What kind of stuff? Publishers and developers have asked Reverb for things like “better data analytics,” McKean says—information on who’s clicking on the recommended links and when. Tam says there’s also “a very bold consumer product on the way” sometime in the first half of 2013.

He’s mostly mum on what a new consumer offering might look like. But when I hypothesized that Reverb might be building a Flipboard- or Zite-style news reader app powered by its matching engine—a better news trap, so to speak—he did not demur.

“Just as Reverb for Publishers is a step up from Wordnik, our consumer product will be a step up from Reverb,” Tam says. “There are lots of ways that technology can go—meaning, finding relevant content for people is something that happens in a lot of places and a lot of contexts.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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