“Bloggers have to eat.”
I remember John Battelle saying that the first time I sat down to have a conversation with him. It was part of his conveying to me why he was inspired to found Federated Media Publishing (FMP). My take on it was the following: The Web’s best independent authors have a passion to write, and write, and write…. but they also have to pay their bills and fill their gas tanks, like the rest of us. At the same time, they’re sensitive about getting “over-commercialized,” meaning they don’t want to spray random ads all over their blog, assaulting their readers with the implicit message, “I’ve sold out.”
FMP was born to help such authors connect with advertisers who “get it.” Advertisers who want to place relevant ads against relevant content, in a way that blends into the conversation instead of distracting from it, and thereby delivers authors a paycheck they can feel good about.
FMP’s announcement last week of a partnership with Zemanta places this model in reach of 80,000 more authors. But it’s the technology partnership between the two companies that really interests me.
I’ve known Andraz Tori, Zemanta’s CTO, for several years, since we started bumping into each other at semantic technology conferences and sharing a beer. He’s one of those “chasm crossers” who knows how to connect the business side to the technology side of our industry. And although FMP already has an in-house semantics team (including yours truly), we don’t have “NIH disease” (not-invented-here). Seeing that Zemanta has a very mature, custom-designed authoring tool that is totally compatible with our own technology, we know a winning combination when we see it.
You already heard about the short-term win here. Thousands of authors will be eligible for sponsored campaigns (via FMP) as they explore the various recommended links and insertions in a Zemanta-enabled tool. But it’s looking past this short-term win, to the long-term future, that gets guys like Andraz and me excited. When I spoke to him on Skype the week before our announcement, Andraz was bubbling over.
“The research done to drive advertising and e-commerce is now being applied more widely,” he said. “Massive amounts of data are supporting everything from health decisions to content authoring to geeks finding dates. We’re going from AdSense to EverythingSense.”
I chuckled. “EverythingSense.” Good way to sum up, in a single phrase, what he and I (and many of our colleagues) have been striving for over the years.
“’The understanding that big data and algorithms are bringing is changing the role of computing,” he went on. “Computers aren’t just mere tools any more, they are becoming our personal assistants, coaches and sometimes even shrinks.”
Okay, when he got to the “shrinks” part, I had to butt in and demand an explanation. Well, it turns out that Zemanta has been approached a few times by authors saying they discovered things about themselves by using the tool. One author said that she had assumed what she was writing about was weird and idiosyncratic, but while writing her post, the Zemanta tool connected her to kindred spirits in the blogosphere, whose similar posts brought to light dimensions of her own experience she had not formerly contemplated.
This doesn’t replace the real therapist you pay $200 an hour, but it’s nice.
That anecdote points to a “feeling” that guys like Andraz and me have about the future of semantics and the Web. It’s a sense that the Web is, really, still in its infancy, and the real awesome power is to come when we’ve manifested all the meaningful connections there are between everything and…. Everything.
To us, FMP’s partnership with Zemanta is more than another revenue deal. We think of it as one additional step toward that future.