OTB’s Engage Feed

You many have noticed the array of images and links under the footer of post pages. Here's what it is.

At least one of you has noticed the array of images and links under the footer of post pages.  It’s a platform called “Engage” that we’re trying out from one of our chief ad partners, Revcontent.  A recent Forbes piece has details:

Engage.im helps media publishers that rely on social media grow their audiences by providing a publisher hosted platform distributed in the first truly open feed.

“Media publishers are increasingly dependent on social networks to share content and grow audiences, and they have been searching for ways to get back to a model where they own their content on their site and are able to grow micro communities around on their own media platforms. That is where the idea for Engage.im came from,” said John Lemp, the CEO of Revcontent and Engage.im. “With the recent Facebook changes and onslaught on the open web, Engage.im is a welcome option for media publishers looking to regain lost traffic.”

Engage.im essentially allows users to create a personalized web experience in an infinite scroll feed that promotes other content from that same publisher. The recirculation of the content increases the amount of time that users spend on their site, which increases revenue as a result.

“Traffic from Engage.im performs at 531 percent higher average time on site than social, resulting in a significantly improved user experience and better engagement with our content. We are seeing a 4-5X increase in engagement before personalization and up to 11X after users personalize their content. This is a major gamechanger for media publishers that care about their users,” said Dev Pragad, CEO of Newsweek Media Group.

The recirculation of the content through Engage.im is also designed in an intuitive and familiar way that social media users are accustomed to. There are emoji reactions like Exciting, Love, Interesting, Sad, Angry and Gross. And there are Commenting, Sharing and Bookmarking features built in. The technology also supports in-feed video, polls and native advertising integration options, all controlled directly by the publisher.

Engage.im was incubated at Revcontent over the past three years and was created using proprietary technology built in-house. “The same scalable delivery system and dynamic architecture were integrated into Engage.im,” added Lemp.

The feed needs to be tweaked—it’s currently showing links to pages that are nothing but placeholders for images. And the “infinite scroll” will get modified so that it’s shorter. Once it’s the way we want it, we’ll move it to above the footer and below the comments.

As frequently noted in these pages, running websites is rather expensive and generating revenue is quite difficult. Ad networks aren’t paying much and publishers have resorted to ever-more-intrusive and spammy ads. Readers have, quite naturally, responded by installing ad blockers, creating a vicious cycle.

I started OTB as a hobby and never intended to make money off it, although, mostly because of a celebrity gossip spinoff site that’s long defunct, managed to do so for a short span. The ongoing site revamp—it’s essentially done aside from a move to a much more powerful new server which should happen any day now—has cost several thousand dollars and the server alone costs as much as we’re bringing in from ads. We got rid of the spammiest ads during the revamp and are trying out others to see what works.

The Engage.im feed won’t bring any money on its own but it’s designed to keep casual readers on the site longer. You’ve likely noticed that a lot of news sites scan directly into a new article as you finish the one you started with. That’s impractical here since articles are followed by the discussion forum.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, OTB History, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mister Bluster says:

    The recirculation of the content increases the amount of time that users spend on their site, which increases revenue as a result.

    The Engage.im feed won’t bring any money on its own but it’s designed to keep casual readers on the site longer.

    Explain This To Me Like I’m a Two Year Old

    I am all for anything that increases revenue for OTB short of bank robbery.
    Pop ups may annoy me but I know why they are there. And I can usually dismiss them with a click.
    When I saw the “facebook crap” below the footer I started scrolling and clicking to see what it was.

    There may be an obvious answer like keeping casual readers on the site longer means there will be more clicks on ads and more pennies in the OTB coffer.
    I can’t see why there would be objections to that.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    I confess I had only been marginally aware of this “Engage” content on the page. This does not augur well for its efficacy. But if it brings a little revenue to the site, I’m all for it. I was even happy to live with the popups.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: Once the algorithm is tweaked we’ll move it above the footer.

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  4. SKI says:

    As frequently noted in these pages, running websites is rather expensive and generating revenue is quite difficult. Ad networks aren’t paying much and publishers have resorted to ever-more-intrusive and spammy ads. Readers have, quite naturally, responded by installing ad blockers, creating a vicious cycle.

    Have you thought about opening a Patreon? I know that I, and I imagine many others who regularly frequent OTB, would be more than willing to throw a small amount into a monthly subscription to help offset/defray the costs of keeping this up. I already do so for some podcasters who, while they are putting out content because they enjoy/want to, offer the ability to support the costs of the site/effort.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Have you thought about opening a Patreon? I know that I, and I imagine many others who regularly frequent OTB, would be more than willing to throw a small amount into a monthly subscription to help offset/defray the costs of keeping this up.

    Thanks. I actually started building an OTB Patreon page as we were getting to launch the redesign. The problem is that the site seems to be geared to offering rewards to contributors based on membership tiers and I really don’t want to get into business of walling off our best content. I wound up just throwing a DONATE button atop the right sidebar, which has netted a handful of contributions.

  6. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: It is designed like that but you absolutely don’t have to follow that model.

    You can set a single $1 or More category and have the perk be something like undying loyalty and bragging rights. Then everybody can throw in whatever they wish.

    If you want to go crazy, make Doug do a drunk livestream watching the next SOTU as the perk… 😉

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: Ha. Fair. I had it set up for $1/$5/$10/$25 a month. I suppose I can put up a button and see what happens. (Some yahoo who has never used the site for anything has claimed /OTB for no apparent reason.)

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  8. Kylopod says:

    Slightly OT, but this is something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a while. The site loads nicely–much better than the previous system (which frequently didn’t load at all, sometimes becoming completely nonfunctional for several minutes). But it has a new, weird problem: there seems to be some kind of delay in updating a page’s comments, but it goes away as soon as you refresh. So if I open a thread, frequently it will say there are 3 comments, but when I immediately hit refresh it suddenly says there are 6 comments, even though the newer ones had been posted several minutes earlier (sometimes including a comment I had posted in addition to someone else’s response to it). I’ve actually gotten into the habit of hitting refresh as soon as I load each thread, and I shouldn’t have to do that.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: A handful of others have reported that but my developer can’t track down the case, since it’s apparently idiosyncratic. I’m hoping that goes away with the new server.

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  10. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:

    That–the business with having to refresh the pages to see what the new comments are–happens to me constantly.

  11. Tony W says:

    As long as we’re reporting oddities….

    For some reason, using Chrome, my name and e-mail are not remembered between sessions. Have to re-populate them each time, and that’s new with the new site/server.

  12. teve tory says:

    @Kylopod: If it’s a page you’ve not been to yet, it’ll usually load the new comments, but if you’ve loaded it in the past, you have to hit refresh to get the new stuff, is my experience.

  13. teve tory says:

    @Tony W: ditto.

    It seems all the problems I’ve noticed are varieties of caching malfunction.

  14. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: Button works! Now promote it!

    One suggestion would be to have it open in another tab.