|We hear a lot about how publishers' new economic models require a lot "digital dimes" to compensate for the traditional dollars they used to rake in through print. In other words, publishers need to develop a wide array of products and services to build profitable digital businesses, often with a mix of advertiser and audience revenue.
Let's take a look at some of these dimes. Here are four emerging technologies that aren't game changers, but they can help media companies capture incremental revenues.
Swoop is contextual search technology that helps publishers and advertisers capitalise on "moments of intent," according to Ron Elwell, the startup's founder and CEO.
"We search for moments of intent, when the consumer is looking for one of two things: more information or some type of deal," said Elwell. "We present both types of information based on where they are in the decision process."
Swoop is designed to be less intrusive and more informative than in-text ads from companies like Vibrant Media that pop up whenever your mouse hovers over them. "We don't do hovers, because they're accidental and they don't show direct intent," said Elwell.
Users have to click on a Swoop link to view the content, and the technology offers iconic "hints" that provide a sense of the type of information that's available: a dollar sign for a coupon, for example, or a heart to denote a lower-cholesterol alternative for a recipe ingredient. This content can come from the publisher or be monetised through sponsorships.
"We don't want you to be unpleasantly surprised when you click," said Elwell.
This type of ‘invitation-driven' marketing has resulted in click-through rates above 2 per cent, Elwell said. Swoop is paid on a per-click basis, splitting the revenue with its publisher partners.
"When you throw up banner ads, users ignore them, or you annoy them," said Elwell. "But when you can inject actual content into your online content, and make it relevant, then people will engage with it."
Swoop's initial iteration is designed for food sites. A version for pharmaceutical verticals is scheduled for beta testing in the next 60-90 days. Other versions are planned for travel, baby/beauty/fashion, and auto verticals.
"We're taking it vertical by vertical, because we need to create very specific lexicons for each," said Elwell. "Food is actually hard, because there are so many products and about 63 different ways to say ‘chicken.'
The technology is live on about 15 sites, with 10 more scheduled to come on board over the next couple of weeks, Elwell said. On the brand side, Swoop is working with five advertisers, including General Mills and Smart Balance.
Swoop, based in Cambridge, Mass., is backed by US Venture Partners and Valhalla Partners.
Scoople is a polling app that gathers opinions about news topics, using a content engine that aggregates news from a variety of sources. This foundational layer is automated, but Dygest - Scoople's developer - uses journalism students to frame the polling questions around the news.
Polls are presented as a game. The question is posed - "Would you prefer a male or female voice for Siri?" - and then users are asked to pick if most people will agree or disagree with their decision. Users can view answers and keep track of their progress via leaderboards and buy badges with the "Scoople Bucks" they accumulate.
"Looking at the world of digital news, distribution is faster and has more scale than ever before," Alain Mayer, CEO and co-founder of Dygest, said in a phone interview. "When people forward a story, they like to attach their own opinions. But these opinions are very short-lived. We thought it would be fun to make these opinions count a bit more, and make them socially connected."
Scoople is also a way for Dygest to gather lots of data about its users. Mayer says the company has collected about 400,000 opinions, with engagement rates at about 10 per cent. "We have a core audience that looks at this in a game-like fashion, usually offering at least one opinion a day," Mayer said. "Competing against one another makes it more fun."
Scoople is available as an iPhone app and also on Facebook, which offers Pinterest-style browsing.
Mayer said the data Dygest is accumulating will form the base of the company's business model. "Polling and opinion research is a big industry," he said. "Using aggregated data, we can cross-correlate answers and see what trends are emerging. That information can be very interesting to companies."
Why should publishers care? Mayer says his company is beginning to explore partnerships with media companies. "The technology doesn't have to be bound to aggregated content," he explained. "It can be spread to different platforms."
A publisher could potentially white label Scoople for its own website, hosting their own or sponsored poll questions and capturing user data, which it could leverage for more targeted content or premium advertising.
"We've found a way to do something very engaging based on daily news," Mayer said.
Zaarly is a digital marketplace that TechCrunch calls a "reverse Craigslist," because it allows users to post requests for goods and services - anything from iPhones to personal trainers - along with what they'd be willing to pay.
This week, the company launched an API that publishers can integrate on their websites to connect buyers to local sellers. Zaarly has signed up seven publishers for its Zaarly Anywhere API, including Everyday Health, The Fancy and The Los Angeles Times.
The API will give publishers a new revenue stream by connecting online content with offline commerce, the company said in its announcement.
On a publisher's website, a visitor creates a request by clicking a button that can be integrated with articles, social media buttons or photos. The API populates the request with the title, description and location details from the publisher's site. People receive offers back, choose the one they want and pay through Zaarly's platform.
The Fancy has been generating some buzz as a Pinterest-like social commerce site that lets users purchase the items in the photos they're sharing. This week, according to TechCrunch, the company is launching a new "buy" button that publishers can integrate into their own websites, enabling users to make purchases directly from a page.