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RebelMouse Wants to Give Publishers Their Native Advertising Fix, For a Price

For $10,000 a Month, The Ability to Sell Ads On Embedded RebelMouse Pages

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Slowly but surely, social publishing platform RebelMouse is getting adoption from big-name publishers. The Wall Street Journal used it as part of its Davos coverage and Yahoo News embeded it to show off reader videos taken during Winter Storm Nemo.

Rather than create a separate page, big media likes to embed the experience within their own sites. Now the startup founded by former HuffPost CTO Paul Berry wants to give these publishers a way to make money from those embedded pages. Of course it's a "native" type of ad.

RebelMouse lets users connect their social network accounts to the service, and then automatically populates a webpage with images, video and headlines from those accounts and displays them in an image-rich grid that takes some cues from Pinterest. Mr. Berry said that more than 250,000 RebelMouse accounts have been created since it launched nine months ago.

A RebelMouse page can also be embedded into external websites, and that's how some publishers have been using it. RebelMouse is now ready to offer an option where publishers can let advertisers sponsor some of the content boxes within these embedded grids, Mr. Berry said in an interview yesterday.

Mr. Berry said support for the "native" units will run "large" publishers $10,000 a month - a number he said could go up. But couldn't publishers simply add an advertiser's content into the RebelMouse flow and freeze it in a place (an option on RebelMouse) on their own and not pay RebelMouse to do it for them?

"Yes," Mr. Berry wrote in a follow-up email. "But it wouldn't be marked as Sponsored Content which would be super dangerous/wrong for them. A core part of the program is treating that unit really well and giving them design options to choose from."

RebelMouse will also create ad units teasing the sponsored content that a publisher or advertiser can use to drive people either toward the RebelMouse experience or directly to the advertiser's content.

Publishers will eventually have different formats to choose from, especially at a time when social-network users are used to single streams of content.

"I don't think that the grid as we have it now is the final destination," he said. "But when you see the massive growth that a Buzzfeed, Huffpost or Bleacher Report got and gets, I think it's a really compelling way to read media."

For the price, publishers are going to have to sell a decent sponsorship around the RebelMouse experience to make it worth it. And they are going to have to make sure they're pushing enough traffic toward the embedded experience within their site. That said, you can imagine sales teams poking their heads over to editorial to see when they might start using RebelMouse simply so sales can tell advertisers they have a "native ad" product to sell.

Mr. Berry said the push to get big publishers to pay for the service isn't "at all a white-flag retreat" from pushing to get individuals to create and keep coming back to their own RebelMouse pages or to pay $9.99 to have RebelMouse power their own domains. At the same time, the startup is spending a lot of time focusing on supporting the 50,000 or so people using the service most intensely.

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