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The Web of Intent is Coming (Sooner Than You Think)

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Nova Spivack’s recent GigaOM post, “Trailmeme and the Web of Intent,” highlights the growing content clutter problem on the web, but frames the solution set too narrowly and too far into the future. In fact, more robust content filtering tools and the Web of Intent will arrive sooner than you think, based on the implicit messages in users’ actions.

Solutions like Trailmeme that help consumers more easily save, tag, annotate, inter-link and share related content as a way to better filter the web sound promising, but we shouldn’t put all the pressure on crowd-sourcing solutions that require consumers to clean up the entire stream.

The Web of Intent will be largely driven by consumers’ actions and interests.  It will be based on implicit actions consumers take around what is most important to them. There’s an emerging opportunity for content publishers (and the publishing technologies they rely upon) to dramatically improve how they filter the stream for the consumers they serve. Once they do, consumers will embrace these improved, personalized content offerings and will in turn provide valuable feedback and insight through the actions they take with the content offered. Here are a few publishing trends that will accelerate the Web of Intent:

  1. Search and publishing tools will become more integrated, offering new forms of publishing flexibility that marry a publisher’s originally authored content assets with the best related content from the aggregated and real-time web.
  2. Search and publishing integration will help editors more easily monitor the web and curate new content packages across different content types, including articles, blog posts, tweets, photos and video.
  3. Publishers will start to produce curated, topical or thematic content “feeds” for their target audiences. For example, consumers will be able to subscribe to curated sports feeds for the latest news about their favorite teams or athletes or gadget feeds covering digital cameras or iPad news.
  4. Publishers will also offer more engaging (and valued) user experiences for consumers who “opt-in” to these personalized, filtered feeds providing convenient updates wherever consumers go. Think a better version of Google (s GOOG) Alerts — curated by skilled editors from your favorite publisher and available anywhere (Facebook, Twitter, MyYahoo, iPad, iPhone etc.). (s YHOO) (s AAPL)
  5. Consumers will be able to customize these feeds across topics or stories, prioritize sources, receive recommendations and discover new content via their friends and social graph. New forms of social sharing (community) will emerge organized around consumer’s interests and the curated feeds they subscribe to.
  6. A few years ago when I was at, we implemented an early form of the Web of Intent. For example, if a consumer was interested in a Sedan or BMW 3 Series they would click a link to get more information. As the publisher, we started to understand their intent through their implicit actions and fashioned a dynamic content and monetization experience designed to satisfy their specific interest. To support this, we had to significantly re-architect the way we thought about the design of the site and our entire content and advertising operations to organize around the consumer’s interests. We built everything ourselves, and that investment paid off as the site became the top auto research destination on the web and we significantly increased our revenue per user.

    As we look ahead, next-generation content publishing tools will make this transition much easier for publishers. They will be able to quickly transform their content operations beyond articles and blog posts into data and interest-centric publishing structures that allow consumers to follow topics and ongoing stories of interest. As consumers follow their favorite topics or stories, publishers will be able to build a Web of Intent rich in data and profiling based on their audiences’ interests. These interests will offer newer and more robust targeting opportunities and will ultimately provide publishers new opportunities for monetization beyond pure advertising.

    The good news for consumers is a number of large publishers are already actively working on these problems and are in the process of redesigning or re-launching their websites to make their sites more “intent-friendly”. Additionally, innovative tech companies are emerging such as in video curation or my6sense which help create personalized content streams.

    The Web of Intent will be here sooner than you think.

    Matthew Kumin is the former EVP, Media for and co-founder and CEO of PublishThis, a next-gen content publishing platform.

16 Responses to “The Web of Intent is Coming (Sooner Than You Think)”

  1. g2-2ca23337519e25d751c60b05e2ba1fff

    Thanks Matthew, great feedback.

    Let me try to answer your wonderful and very challenging question:

    “In this emerging future, how will curation help drive trust and how will the most trusted content curators get discovered?”

    a. How curation drives trust

    By repeatedly and consistently curating the very best content on a specific topic. By having no self-interest or self-promotion. By having as a key goal the desire of providing maximum value (not quantity) and relevant, verified information to those specifically interested in that very topic. By disclosing openly and clearly for what kind of interest-need-problem (niche) you are curating your channel.

    b. How will best content curators get discovered

    1. By being found as a relevant content sources on major search engines like Google and Bing. Organically they should become rapidly very relevant if they do enough of the what outlined at point a.

    2. By cultivating communities of interest around passionate followers, who will turn market and promote in the most effective ways such sources to their direct contacts in need of such type of information. Just like you do when you recommend a doctor you know.

    What do you think?

  2. I can’t wait for that time then, really. There’s so much noise on the World Wide Web and it’s so frustrating searching for that one valuable post among millions. I’m glad I found your article though. I wish they do it soon since it’s a major frustration to come across sites that rank high on the search engines- which contain nothing but a poorly written copy stuffed with keywords in a lame attempt to make it to the top page. I’d say I had enough!

  3. First, Matthew: You haven’t been listening in secretly to our strategy sessions have you? :) We at the Trailmeme team are thinking along many of the lines you are laying out for our future roadmap!

    You are raising one of the toughest problems in computer science: intent inference. I agree with you that for intent technologies to scale, we’ll have to go beyond “declared intent” and build technology that figures out what people intend from their behaviors. I think Amazon is a pioneer here: Amazon often knows what I want well before I know it. Sometimes I think they’ve got some precogs living in vats somewhere in Seattle.

    I am most interested personally in the interface between top-down declared intent and bottom-up revealed intent. You need both. The former can be too impoverished, and the latter can seem irrational, and subject to conscious change, once it bubbles into the conscious (“what? I’ve been spending most of my money on eating out? [unconscious intent revealed by for instance] I need to change and eat at home more [resulting conscious intent]”). There are very rich possibilities there.

    At Trailmeme, without showing too much of our hand, our general approach is to plant the seed “top down” but allow the plant to grow with bottom-up accretion as well.


    • Hey Venkat,
      you’re making some great points indeed.

      You guys at Trailmeme are definitely on the right track and the issue of top-down versus bottom-up contribution is really more of an opportunity than a problem. You as a publisher or subject matter expert/newsroom select the theme-topics on which you want to provide a specialized news feed by curating all that is available out there.

      On the other hand the user, is free to select his preferred “trusted” curator and to subscribe to his stream. Furthermore he can then start contributing and feeding back to the curator-newsroom directly by providing links to resources or news stories that he himself encounters.

      Not only, the user, can turn himself into another curator and by taking existing curated channels, add his extra layer of information value and create a new different channel based on the work of others as well.

      One way to make the curated offer meet its demand is to remember that by using our best information marketing approaches either:

      a. Curated information channels must intercept specific niches corresponding to focused interests or problems that people are searching for online,

      b. Publishers of curated channels create-develop a community of passionate followers/fans that pivots around a specific interest, and by engaging with them through various “conversational” means, understand and decipher their specific needs and desires to build THEN custom curated “newsradars” or “trailmemes” to satisfy such needs.

      Do you see the same?

      • Robin I think you are raising some very good points here. As the technology solutions start to offer publishers and consumers better filters and curation tools, I think one of the critical issues will center around “trust”.

        Our friends will help with this for sure, but publishers, bloggers and even brands will have an even bigger opportunity to deliver not just filtered news but trusted news and content.

        In many ways, trust will = time spent as consumers will largely ignore anything non-trusted (and are already showing this inclination). To-date, trust has largely formed around great original content and editorial voice.

        In this emerging future, how will curation help drive trust and how will the most trusted content curators get discovered?


  4. And now putting it all together.

    Over at TechCrunch Michael Arrington has an article, “Blogging And Mass Psychomanipulation,” which describes the predictability of Readers/Commenters.

    We can easily see how this fits the curator model of creating articles for a given audience. In essence the writer/curator learns how the audience will behave(reading what, commenting on).

    Small problem.

    Each equation has a Lhs and a Rhs, and most of the time what goes on on either site is reflected on the other. Meaning, writer/curator learns. So does the audience(not only what is written but also how it is,…). Means the audience can predict a given authors writing, means over time they get bored and move on. See, Web versus MSM.

    Then there is the shelf live of any given article. Let’s say Mathew writes a well researched article and presents argument and counter argument. Om provide a different article reflecting on his childhood and how he thinks everything fits together. Now we have a well educated/read audience. Which article has a longer shelf live? How many of the readers have read about argument and counter argument from Mathew’s article before they read his? What is the information value of his article, after few hours/minutes and many published articles on argument and counter argument?

    What is the information value/intent of both articles at any given time for a given audience? Which one will capture/keep an audience over time? Which one is appropriate when? In other words curated content with both sides of the equation adjusting/learning can become a dead end, working only with on one side of the eq. will guaranteed make it so. It doesn’t matter how buzz wordy it is or how much noise it creates in the echo chamber.

    But what do I know.
    P.S. Sorry Mathew had to pick someone.

  5. Not only will new content publishing tools make the implicit “web of intent” a reality sooner rather than later, but enabling consumers to save, curate and distribute the ideas and information that interests them will also have a multiplier network effect. Putting the consumer in control (as opposed to traditional interaction models that have publishers driving traffic to their site and advertisers talking to the consumer) by allowing them to interact with content on their own terms is a powerful means of endorsement and distribution.

    For example, clicking on the Save button on any of the wines @garyvee reviews: enables the viewer to save the wine for later to Springpad ( The viewer now “owns” the content; and can easily access, buy it and share it through their network. The publisher benefits from brand and monetization extension beyond their site.

    Full disclosure: I’m a Springpad co-founder.

    • Just don’t fixate on laptops and desktops too much!
      With 4.3 SmartPhone screens powered by 1Gz processors and a pending explosion of tablets in the next year… this will truly be a mobile process. Our personal intent will be less and less reflected by our interaction with desktops. Jeff… I’m a huge fan of Springpad… but for someone running a business in the field all day, there’s too much of a disparity between the features/functionality of the desktop/web app which spoils me! and mobile one.

      • We hear you Tim. Our upcoming release at the end of September will enhance our mobile apps with an alerts framework, including reminders, news, deals and offers along with web to phone functionality to facilitate multi-modal access and usage.

  6. I think this article hits the bulls-eye in terms of what is happening now, and much more tracking activity may be expected later.
    An open system, having a reference implementation, that aligns the interests of publishers with those of consumers, may achieve the goals of what is known as the Web of Intent.