Sphere links on Time mag site

Mike Arrington just pointed out the blogosphere related links provided by SF start-up Sphere on selected Time Magazine articles. Very cool, but it makes me wonder why Sphere was successful in pulling this off when Technorati, Feedster, and probably every other start-up in blogosphere land has been pitching these guys (and every other big media outlet) since late 2004.
To me, Sphere’s success in testing with Time seems like a combo of a good, fresh product and good timing. As Mike points out, for one thing, the Sphere widget provides more contextually relevant blog results than Technorati’s Technorati This feature, which shows blog entries that link to the URL being searched–but not closely related posts (or articles). In this case, that means Technorati first pulled up a number of posts about the Sphere/Time relationship–nothing a reader of a piece on Michael Hayden would especially care about–while Sphere pulled related stories,
The second reason, though, is timing. Back in 2004, when blog search firm started trolling for clients, publishers were scared of the big bloggers who cursed, wrote about sex and would shock their readers. The reluctance of the *pure* blog search companies to build alternative safe universes of blog content (e.g., censored versions of the blogosphere) was a deal killer for most big media outlets interested in anything but Presidential elections. Now, in the world of youtube, citizen journalism, and social media, magazine-land web sites need to hustle to stay relevant, despite the big dollars they spend on heavily researched investigative journalism and flashy subheds.
Finally, the third, and most Web 2.0 reason is–widgets. Sphere CEO Tony Conrad describes the Time deal in the context of the Sphere b bookmarklet, which was one of the earliest products they launched (smart!). Over and over, proof comes in that one of the key acquisition–and retention–tools for users today are widgets that create distributed access to information–is it any surprise that the same functionality would appeal to the web folks at a weekly magazine?

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  1. michael arrington says:

    Susan, I think you nailed it. Timing, plus a decent product, in that order.

  2. Peter Caputa says:

    Agreed.
    The guys that formed this from the ashes of waypath have some killer contextual matching technology. That beats “who’s linking to this” tricks.

  3. Marshall Kirkpatrick says:

    I wonder wether the tepid reaction in the web tech blogosphere to the Sphere It bookmarklet is attributable to the black box of the algorithm so unfamiliar to a scene wedded to link love. Consumer facing media just wants things to work. Could that be the difference?

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