Since last May, Sphere has partnered with TIME.com to link to contextually relevant blog posts from the blogosphere. We were surprised when Josh Macht (former Managing Editor of TIME.com) and Craig Ettinger (VP, Business Development TIME) reached out to us shortly after our May launch to explore integrating our Sphere It! contextual bookmarklet in the TIME.com Nation articles. For a young company like Sphere, getting that type of in-bound call, from one of the most respected publishers in the industry, is a huge break. We worked very well with their editorial and tech team (thank you Adam Embick) from our initial dialog and we were live a week later in large part due to TIME.com’s willingness to be a thought leader in how publishers connect their readers to the emerging, increasingly interesting and larger conversation happening in the blogosphere. TIME.com gets it, creating a great user experience is paramount to everything and if pointing their readers outside TIME.com is important in creating that experience, so be it. While more and more publishers are partnering with Sphere (several announcements coming soon – :)), that was a very progressive stance 7 months ago. And that is a small example of why readers come back frequently to TIME.com.
Since launch, much has changed. Josh moved on to run Harvard Business Scool Press and John Cantarella became the new GM of TIME.com (John came from the New York Times which is another progressive thinker when it comes to digital media.) We’ve played around with placement of the Sphere It! icon, settling on putting it at the bottom of the articles so the reader can continue to read about the topic when finished reading the TIME.com article. This makes a lot of sense. We’ve also seen our click-through’s grow every month as readers become more familiar with the benefits of clicking on the icon. We’ve further improved user experience by enabling the reader to click on the icon and see various options before being sent off to another site. We call this our Contextual Widget, which is growing quickly in popularity with a number of leading publishers (Dow Jones MarketWatch; ZDNet; AOL) and micro-publishers (Techdirt; GigaOm; TechCrunch; Venture Beat; Captains Quarters; The Blogging Times; etc). And lastly, with John’s support, readers can now find the Sphere It! icon on all TIME.com articles.
TIME.com’s contextual widget includes three different types of contextually relevant content to the article a reader is, well, reading:
- Related Articles from TIME.com from the past month
- Related Blog Posts from the Blogosphere
- Recommended TIME.com Blogs (check them out, my 2 favorite are Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish and Tuned In)
We receive notes from readers every week thanking us (and TIME) for showcasing their content. Here is a note we received a few days ago:
“Thank you very much for featuring me and thx for the compliments on my blog! I definitely spend a lot of time working on it. Being featured next to a Time article is amazingly exciting – I sent the link to my parents! I am already getting a significant number of hits just from that one article. The premise of your site is great. You are sifting through the wheat of the blogosphere and separating the wheat from the chaff. And the chaff is a great big huge gigantic pile all right! That right there is a superb service. Thx again!”
Or this one we received yesterday:
“You can tell by my timely response I’m checking my morning mail……! I can’t believe my blog showed up in the sphere it Time results – wow, that is way cool!!!!” Does Sphere do for other publications what it does for Time? I think it’s a great way to present opinion and the other side of the story to balance out the news itself, and put it in perspective. THANK YOU!”
We’re very appreciative of the partnership with TIME.com and the opportunity to work with John, Craig and Adam. Please check out the new implementation and let us know your thoughts.