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Outbrain, a content discovery platform, made waves in December when it raised $35 million, showing suggesting engaging links to people can be big business. But it’s not the only competitor seeing big growth. NRelate, a small boot-strapped fellow New York City start-up, is also growing quickly and just eclipsed 20,000 publishers after a breakout year in 2011.
Similar to Outbrain, nRelate offers a widget publishers can use to promote their own content on a site, or they can run sponsored content links that take visitors to other sites. There are also partner links that can recommend content on partner sites. NRelate focuses on medium and small publishers and blogs, but has some sites doing as many as 30 million impressions a month.
The company added 2,500 publishers in the last month and grew by more than 1,000 percent last year after launching in the summer of 2010. Publishers can not only make their sites more engaging using nRelate, but they can also earn money through sponsored content links and advertising through nRelate. The company said sites using nRelate generally see an increase in page views of five to 12 percent.
Neil Mody, nRelate’s CEO and founder, said he came up with the idea after seeing a lack of good recommendation for content on sites. At one point, he left one particular site to conduct a Google (s goog) search for similar content only to be referred back to the site he was just at, something he said shouldn’t happen if a publisher has good recommendation tools. So he decided to build a product that could drive traffic and help people navigate the web.
“Reaching 20,000 publishers in our network is an important testament to the growing significance of content marketing,” said Mody. “This is a win-win for all parties. Brands are increasingly using platforms like ours to keep their customers engaged through content; publishers are looking for new monetization opportunities; and consumers like Internet experiences based on their interests.”
The company took on $500,000 in angel funding last summer and is in the process of raising its Series A round. It’s flirting with profitability and has five employees. It may not have the big funding of Outbrain, but nRelate is showing there are a lot of opportunities in the content recommendation and discovery business.