These days, a link is not just a link, and everyone's trying to layer on extras onto it: it started with in-text advertising from the likes of Intellitxt, then Snap.com pop up links (at least they weren't ads), and then graduated to more than text/webpages, into dynamic multimedia content, from the likes of Sphere (now owned by AOL), AdaptiveBlue, Panels.net, Loomia and others. Now another company in the space, called Apture, has received $4.1 million in its first round of funding, led by Clearstone Venture Partners. The San Mateo, CA-based company previously received about a million dollars in angel funding from Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, and Steve Taylor, former EVP of The Boston Globe, among others.
The service allows publishers to add hover pop-ups on top of normal links, and depending on what kind of context the publisher wants a users to see (video, audio, text, pic or mixture of all of this), the pop up will pull content from various pre-defined sources (including YouTube, Wikipedia, *Amazon*, Flickr, Hulu, *Google* Maps, *Google* search and many others), without a user ever having to leave the page they are on. The difference from some of the competitors is that it allows publishers to define what those sources are, and can add customization to them. That's where it hopes its business model comes in: the basic service is free for bloggers and smaller publishers, but for bigger publishers it will charge, based on the level of customized sources, searches or pageviews are. It also hopes to get a cut of any ad revenues on those pop up pages, whether text or video ads, it says, from the bigger companies.
The company has been trialling its service with some of these bigger sites, like BBC, *Washington Post*, SFGate. And example of service and pop-up links is here on WaPo. Few big questions remain: it is just a feature and for the company requires scale of larger publishers to make enough money through biz dev deals and ad revenues. Secondly, the ad revenue cut part may have to wait for a while, at least a volume of it. Also, much as it may want to stick to editorial richness of content, it may have to veer towards more e-commerce and lead-gen based services to get, well, revenues again. Also, from a publisher's perspective, it requires extra effort on customization for these links, at a time when most news media companies' smaller staffs are pretty stretched already. Then, there's the irritability factor: for now such integrated rich-content are novel and frankly, pretty useful, but after a certain while, it may become irritating for mainstream users who just want to read the story. Too early to tell about Apture's chances, but a well thought-out effort to begin with
A good review of the service is here.
By Rafat Ali