They create Facebook pages. They dabble in FourSquare. Their reporters tweet and blog and use LinkedIn to cultivate sources.
A downside of these efforts is that they tend to be diffuse and chase an audience that's scattered about the Internet.
But now Echo, a San Francisco-based startup, has introduced a product designed to bring that scattered social media and community content—and the users interested in it—to a publisher's home page.
The product, introduced this month, is called Echo StreamServer. It's an open-source cloud platform that allows media companies to create a streaming, real-time database of content collected from disparate sources, including Facebook status updates, Twitter feeds, blog posts, FourSquare checkins, and comments and other interactions on a brand's website.
“Why take users away from your site in order to engage them?” Echo CEO Khris Loux said in a statement. “With Echo, media companies, brands and startups can harness the power of the real-time Web to control, monetize and analyze their activity data to create rewarding and social experiences for their users.”
Among Echo StreamServer's initial customers are NBC and Reuters. The USA Network is using the product to create a real-time database of commentary on its programs, such as “Burn Notice.” The automatically updated comment stream about this program includes tweets, Facebook status updates and blog posts that mention the show.
“They know a conversation around these shows is already happening, but there was no one place to keep track of that conversation,” said Chris Saad, Echo VP-strategy. “But now USA Network has a place to keep track of that conversation.”
Interscope, a record company, has used Echo StreamServer to create a real-time database of recording artist Greyson Chance's tweets and Facebook posts on his official website. The idea is for Interscope to have a chance to monetize that content rather than automatically cede that traffic to Twitter or Facebook.
Although the early adopters of Echo StreamServer have been consumer-oriented businesses, Saad said b-to-b media companies can make use of the product. In addition to collecting tweets, Echo StreamServer can also note activity—such as comments, white paper downloads or video views—on a media brand's own website.
This can enable a media brand to better communicate how active users are on its site, Saad said. And because StreamServer constantly streams updates about the site and about what users are saying on industry topics around the Internet, the site is updated far more regularly than a team of reporters can do.
Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell, sees value in StreamServer but doubts that the product is a game-changing innovation.
"Compared to creating a compelling reason for a reader to pay attention to anything a publisher has to offer—which is based on brand; the thought leadership and trust that builds brand; the insight, analysis and market-leading content; great events—the social conversation portion of all this is a single and even small component,” Richard said. “It doesn't trump the rest of the list.”