OpenCalais makes content discoverable

Bambi Francisco Roizen · June 19, 2009 · Short URL:

How Thomson Reuters OpenCalais is helping Huffington Post and CNet repurpose content

At the Semantic Technology Conference, which drew about 1,200 people, one of the big questions that came to mind is: Can everyone agree to some standards about the understanding and definition of human knowledge?

One company trying to bring about a standard is Thomson Reuters, through OpenCalais, a free automated tagging and organization service for publishers. Just this week, the company announced a partnership with Huffington Post and DailyMe. CNet is also another recent customer.

OpenCalais, which has $30 million invested into its technology already, is essentially automating the process of breaking down volumes of content into new categories and tags to broaden the audience base of its publisher customers and/or make existing content more accessible. For instance, if the context of an article was about "leveraged buyouts," it may never show up under a search result for "mergers and acquisitions," but Calais' technology would draw a connection that these two words are similar and that there is a high probability someone reading about M&A would want to know about LBOs.

Since launching 18 months ago, OpenCalais has attracted 13,000 developers, supporting large publishers to individual blogs, up 5,000 from January of this year.

Huffington Post is using OpenCalais to improve editorial efficiency and reduce time to publication. Another key use is to create micro sites. "They really want to move to having regional publications, maybe even domain specifics, political, or sports or entertainment for specific cities," said Tague. Calais can do the heavy lifting of organizing the data. This way editors can concentrate on creating new content, rather than re-purposing content.

Tague said that OpenCalais can provide two to 3x improvement in editorial productivity. For instance, if a newsroom produced two pieces of content a day, Calais allows newsrooms to produce six pieces of content per day.

Why are you subsidizing this effort? I asked.

"To the extent we can get our content to cooperate and play nicely with other content, all the content would be enhanced," said Tague.

Does this mean Thomson Reuters wants to be the over-arching ontology or taxonomy?

"We are absolutely establishing a Calais standard," said Tague. "[But] even though we have a standard, it's simple to merge with your standard. There's no control position here for Thomson Reuters."

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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