Gather, a Boston-based social news/networking startup, announced $10 million in funding today from Pilot Hill Ventures, McGraw-Hill and Hearst. The company had previously raised $9 million from Jim Manzi, Allen & Company, Southern California Public Radio, American Public Media Group, and Gather CEO Tom Gerace. It seems Gather’s best skill at this point is raising money.
Gather, which is a bit of a cross between Vox and Newsvine, emphasizes personal publishing and offers rewards for members of popular in-network blog posts and articles. (We’ve also written similar companies Multiply and Topix.net recently.) Gather’s substantial resources haven’t paid off with substantial popularity, especially considering the competition: 120,000 registered users and 700,000 unique visitors per month.
The company has said all along its target audience is public radio listeners and the like, not the young people or techies most often found on new social networks. It does include some privacy options so users can limit access to their writings. On the other hand, anything published to the public is search-engine optimized.
Gather’s other notable feature is that it promises to pay its users for their participation in the system. I just spent some time trying to get a sense of how lucrative this could be, and the answer seems to be not very. One point is worth $0.02, but I wasn’t able to earn any points by posting an article on my homepage, commenting on a piece by someone else, or getting someone to rate my article 10 out of 10 stars. You can only extract money from the system when you’ve earned at least $50 per month. A Gather representative would not disclose any details about the value of rewards dispensed to users so far.
One cool thing about the site is it seems to have a very active community. Fifteen minutes after posting a test article asking what I should write about, I had five comments (and only one from someone I’d put up to it!).
As a point of comparison, I checked in with Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson. He says Newsvine has thus far managed to attract more than 500,000 unique visitors per month on $1 million in funding.