Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rich Content for Everyone: Zemanta Brings Semantic Analysis to Blogs and CMS Platforms

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...

Last week's Social Media Club meeting was great for any number of reasons that I covered in my Content Nation blog post, but it was capped by one of those moments of serendipity that come along only so often. As I settled in to my train seat on the way home, I noticed that my friend Jim Hirshfield was sitting in the seat behind me. Jim and I had last seen one another at last year's Cluetrain@10 celebration in New York City, just as he was looking to re-enter the startup space. Today Jim is VP of Business Development of Zemanta, a European startup with development offices in Slovenia that has developed a nifty platform that enables publishers to enrich their online content via their semantic language processing tools.

Zemanta technology operates via a plugin for popular blogging and Web CMS platforms and with popular brower-based email services such as Yahoo! Mail and Gmail. As with other semantic processing services that parse documents to suggest related links, tags and content, Zemanta semantic processing technology pumps text that's being typed in by a document author through its semantic filters to come up with relevant rich content that can be inserted into these documents. This in and of itself is not terribly revolutionary: publishing platforms have had similar tools for years to facilitate the development of rich content that can attract search engine traffic and keep audiences engaged in their content. What's highly interesting about Zemanta's approach is that it is a free download that can be integrated within seconds into platforms that are popular with both bloggers and professional publishers. A "pro" model is available that can be tailored for a publisher's own content on their own platforms.

Best of all, the stuff just plain works. As you type along, Zemanta's suggestions for images, links, tagging and related content pop up in convenient spots near a page's editing window. This real-time analysis is quite impressive and remarkably effective: it seems to take only a few sentences to get going and it gets only better as you type in more. A quick click or drag of the mouse and rich content is integrated into a blog post or article easily. It's giddily easy to enrich your articles: virtually every link, image and tag in this article was implemented with Zemanta. Zemanta's free download links into 10 million-plus items of content from free sources, including rights-cleared images from sources such as CrunchBase, Flickr and Google Maps, articles from key bloggers and Wikipedia as well as information posted on social networking services and content from Crunchbase, Amazon, YouTube and other popular sources. "Reblogging" content to other sites with trace linking to the original source is applied automatically to each post.

High-end services may provide more features, content and functionality for semantic content integration, but for publishers that don't have the time, money or project bandwidth for such solutions and that need to get more enriched content quickly Zemanta offers remarkable power in its free version - as well as the ability to upgrade to the premium version that enables publisher-specific sources to be integrated easily as well. This can be particularly important for a publisher that may have blogging or open-source CMS platforms that will not be so easily integrated into some of the high end semantic services. Zemanta allows these publishers to make rapid integration of content from their existing sources a very short project. In a world in which publishing platforms with 80 percent of what one would expect from a professional package now dominate the bulk of content being generated on the Web, Zemanta gives those platforms yet another "pretty-darn-good" asset that can help their content to compete effectively in online content markets. My thanks to Jim for being in the right place at the right time with a great tool for publishers of all sizes.

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