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Outbrain buys Surphace from AOL

The two content recommendation services will fuse tech and clients to become a super recommender

Financial trends and news by Faith Merino
February 2, 2011 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/169c

Content recommendation engine Outbrain announced Wednesday that it has acquired Surphace, formerly known as Sphere, from AOL.  The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

You know those little links you always see at the bottom of blogs and news articles?  You click one and next thing you know, you’ve clicked your way across the Web and have spent the last three hours reading every article related to carb-free diets you can imagine.  That’s essentially the business of Outbrain, which aggregates and recommends content from your blog or publication to encourage readers to explore related articles. 

The service makes recommendations using four main buckets of algorithms, including contextual analysis (articles with the same content), collaborative data (“People who read this also read…”), popularity (most visited articles on the Web), and personalization (where the service cookies the reader to make recommendations based on previous behavior).  Recently, the company added two new algorithms: most clicked (prioritizing articles that are getting the highest click-through-rate) and social (finding the articles that are being shared the most on social networks).

All of this translates to more clicks and more time spent on your site.

The service’s current customers include Slate, USAToday, VentureBeat, The Seattle Times, the Chicago Tribune, National Geographic, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, and more.  Outbrain offers unique tools and widgets like a rating system, which allows the service to personalize content according to what readers like, and thumbnails, which give recommended content a sleeker look.

Surphace offers similar content recommendation widgets and modules that the company believes encourage “conversational media” by fostering relevant connections between mainstream media, micropublisher content, and blogs that allow readers to explore the plethora of different voices on a single topic.  Founded in 2005, Surphace was acquired by AOL in 2008.  As it merges with Outbrain, it brings along a string of noteworthy publications, including the LA Times, AllThingsD, Lonely Planet, Dow Jones, Time, CBS, Engadget, and more.

The acquisition is expected to broaden Outbrain’s online publishing reach and enhance its content discovery technology.  Surphace CEO Josh Guttman will join Outbrain as Senior Vice President and will oversee Outbrain's strategic platform integrations.  "I’m thrilled to see this come to fruition and to join the Outbrain team. Surphace and Outbrain have a long shared mission in helping publishers grow their business while providing readers with an engaging experience. Combining the two businesses to create the clear winner in content discovery was an easy decision,” said Guttman in a prepared statement.

Founded in 2006, Outbrain has raised $18 million from Carmel Ventures, Gemini Israeli Fund, GlenRock, Rhodium, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.  Outbrain is currently installed on more than 30,000 blogs and runs over 2.5 billion recommendations each month. 

Check out VatorNews interviews with Sphere founder Tony Conrad here

Image source: outbrain.com


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