We first met Mathew Ingram when I read a post in which he critiqued the various blog search engines, declaring Google Blog Search the winner because “they don’t suck”. A lot of what he said was true, all the players including Sphere have their flaws, so Martin and I reached out to him to get his input. He had some really good insights that have driven some changes we’ve made/ are making to our service.
A few weeks ago, we asked Matthew to try out our Sphere It plug-in. He agreed to do so and it is working well with his content. It’s not perfect but it gets better every week as we make adjustments. I think it says a lot about Mathew’s openness to partner with us as well as the power of dialog that the blogosphere can foster.
Sphere It is a fresh approach to related content that doesn’t rely on the “echo chamber” approach taken by Technorati and others, who show only linked or tagged content, which in many cases is sparse and spammy. We don’t think mainstream internet readers are going to go to a blog search engine to search for blogs, at least not yet. We believe a large number of web users will discover high quality blog posts by using tools like Sphere It (which is essentially a URL search). Look at some of our partners like TIME.com or ZDNet as examples of how well this tool works on a URL search. More and more publishers are looking for ways to engage with the blogosphere and many of them, with broad reach to mainstream Internet readers, are adopting Sphere It. Link based strategies work poorly: too prone to spam, shallow result sets and latency. We believe URL search is an effective way to surface blog posts that are contextually relevant to the article content. Connecting mainstream Internet readers to the larger conversation happening around topics is a big opportunity and that’s what we’re focused on doing.