Start-up Hopes to Help Publishers Recapture Search Traffic

Media Morph: Inform

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Inform.
Publishers can use Inform to stem the loss of readers who search.
Publishers can use Inform to stem the loss of readers who search.

What is it: Inform allows branded content sites to hang onto their users longer, increasing impressions and ad inventory. It's rooted in the idea that searching is the third most popular activity on the web after news and e-mail -- so instead of a web publisher letting its users head out to Google to search for related content, why not bring that related content, even if it comes from outside news sources, to them?

How it works: Inform has several features -- some say too many. But it is essentially a search and aggregation tool. It can slice and dice a web site's content to create new online inventory such as vertical topic pages -- for example, it created a classical-music-themed section for The New York Sun's website by automatically aggregating all of the daily paper's classical music-themed content on a particular page. It also uses its algorithms to troll the web for related news stories, creating what is essentially a "news from around the web" section. The idea is that people interested in a particular topic would leave the site anyway to search for related content, so a publisher might as well offer that content on its site, even if it comes from an outside source. Said Neal Goldman, CEO of Inform: "We bring a news-organizing principle to newspapers, magazines and websites -- and help people get the info they need faster and get more of it."

Who's using it: WashingtonPost.com, Answers.com and the NewYorkSun.com are a few of Inform's first clients. "Publishers need to change how they interact with their users if they want to keep them," Mr. Goldman said.

Who's behind it: Inform is a fairly young company, launched in August by former execs from Capital IQ, which was sold to McGraw Hill for $225 million. So far it has about 60 employees, split between India and New York.

What's the revenue and ad angle: Inform charges publishers a monthly fee for the service. The other option is an ad-revenue-sharing deal.
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