September 25, 2008

Outbrain to Extend Blog Recommendations With Third Party Content

Outbrain is best known for its easy to install blog widget that allows readers to rate posts on a one to five star scale, from "Bad" to "Excellent". I've been running it myself the last few months, and have seen some consistent, if not overwhelming, activity on the widgets each day. Outbrain is looking to extend their service by adding stories they believe you may like in addition to the current post, both from the site you own and from third party sites who are fellow Outbrain users. The idea, in their mind, is to deliver a wider range of content to readers, no matter the source.

Outbrain recommends other posts you might like and lets you rate posts.

Today, those who install Outbrain's blog widget also see stories "You might like", but they are limited to the blog on which the widget is installed. The new extension will, in effect, act like the "Web rings" of old, by syndicating your content on similar sites and extending the potential audience. Outbrain also is a big fan of Scott Karp's recent article on Publishing 2.0, which showed that sites which have the highest reader loyalty also are heavy linkers outside their own blogs.

This change is expected to roll out in the next few weeks, Outbrain told publishers late Tuesday night.

While the most visible aspects of Outbrain are the stars on users' blogs, there is actually a good set of statistics being tracked on the back end today, including a record of all blog post ratings, including the score, the post and the rater's country, the ability to sort all posts by total number of ratings, average rating and total popularity score (tabulated by the number of votes and average rating), and how many page views you have gained from the Outbrain network at large.

The most recent ratings on Outbrain.

The most popular posts, by rating, on Outbrain.

Given I'm not a high-traffic destination site, I doubt I'm exactly lighting up the Outbrain leaderboard. Most of my posts get a couple votes, and the most popular posts have received from 12 to 15 votes apiece. This could be due to people's unfamiliarity with Outbrain, reluctance to use the widget, or my low visibility.

My most active post on Outbrain got 15 votes.

Tonight, I logged in to my Outbrain account, and turned on story recommendations, both from my own site, and from third party sites. Over time, we'll see if Outbrain can deliver customized, quality, suggested links, and if this will increase the reader experience. Keep me posted on your thoughts.