RebelMouse, a content aggregation and curation site that lets users set up a profile and pull in content from their social networking accounts, as well as other sources, has hired some key former employees from CNNMoney and VaynerMedia.
Since launching to the public last June, RebelMouse has had 240K sites created and is hitting 1.5 million unique monthly visitors to its landing pages. The company tells us that it has seen a big demand from publishers, and has partnered with TIME magazine for its person-of-the year campaign. Additionally, it worked with C-Span for the presidential inauguration, will power an ESPN Magazine online experience for the Super Bowl and continues to bring in movie and television properties to create their own “portals.”
To help RebelMouse build out these partnerships and plans for the future, it has hired former CNNMoney social product lead Niketa Patel as Director of Content and Stephanie Bagley from VaynerMedia as Director of Partnerships. This is an interesting hire since Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia, is an investor and advisor in RebelMouse. Both will report to Sam Epstein, RebelMouse’s VIP of Platform, who previously worked at Google and HuffingtonPost. Yes, this is the beginning of a power team in content curation and distribution.
In addition to these roles, the RebelMouse development team is now at 24, and has added both iOS and Android specialists to build out its mobile offerings. I spoke with RebelMouse CEO, Paul Berry, about where the company is now and what we can expect from it in the future.
TC: What direction do you see RebelMouse heading?
Berry: RebelMouse is solving a core problem with publishing on the realtime and social web. Everyone’s efforts are fragmented working on each network, and everyone needs to bring it all together to show who they are and highlight their efforts and the best of their community. We believe enterprise and individuals are increasingly using the same tools and this is a perfect example for that. Big publishers and brands will use RebelMouse to power more and more sections of their websites. RebelMouse will stick with a freemium model where rebelmouse.com/You is always going to be free, but you can pay as you use RebelMouse to power your domain and engage with more sophisticated features. RebelMouse should be the solution everyone uses, from companies with massive revenue or traffic to small companies. We believe we can apply a network effect to the open web. This year we are focusing deeply on building more and more network dynamics and engagement into the product while helping gain significant scale with partners and directly with consumers.
TC: What is it about content aggregation that makes the space so interesting to you?
Berry: I don’t see RebelMouse as a simple aggregator. Its the combination of curation plus content creation that is so interesting. Everyone’s struggling with their blogs because of what realtime and social have done to us. Five years ago if your last blog post was three weeks ago you were totally fine with that. Today it starts to get embarrassing. So when you can have your site constantly fresh with the work you’re doing on these vital social networks then you begin to also publish more original content.
TC: How do companies like Twitter and Facebook react to what you’re doing? Basically you’re stealing some eyeballs from their destination sites.
Berry: Our mission is to prove that a Twitter user who joins RebelMouse finds Twitter more vital and essential to them than ever before. Now instead of just reaching the people who are following them at the time they tweet, they know that these interactions are populating their website, not as a widget but as a core part of the content that shows who they are and who loves them and what articles support their thesis of the world. We work very very hard to make sure we are adding value to these networks. We push follows back to the networks they came from instead of asking them to follow only on RebelMouse. We believe that as astounding as the scale and growth of these networks has been, they are still nascent and we can be a strong partner to them, helping give more ROI on efforts to engage. We were one of the first companies to move onto the new Twitter API and to officially match new display requirements. We’ll always iterate and work quickly with them as they grow.
TC: How are you working with social networks right now and how will you work with them in the future to display things in a beautiful way for your users?
Berry: We are working with each to help users get into latest best practices on engagement and display. For example because Facebook is a mix of private and public, we look carefully at the permissions of each post and only publish what is marked clearly as public and send stuff that is just for your friends to draft so you can decide to make that public or not. One of the fundamental features of RebelMouse is the ability to freeze stories into a spot, so something that is particularly meaningful to you as an individual or as a company isn’t just lost in the stream.
TC: What’s next for the product?
Berry: We’re tremendously excited about the updates we have coming. We’ve reached a critical point where instead of having aspirational hopes about how what we were building could be used, it’s being used by some of the smartest people in the world and in high-traffic, high-impact situations. So we’re iterating with them, taking their feedback and looping it back to make RebelMouse sophisticated but simple.
In particular we’re really excited about adding contributions to Rebel Nav because essentially people are able to create topic-based front pages on the fly and invite guest editors and meet new people as they organize and create content. We’re working on sponsored content solutions, turning on revenue where it makes the product durable and focusing on creating network dynamics at every level of the software.
We all share a lot of things, and it’s hard to put all of our favorite content into one place, displayed in a way that’s consumable by anyone who isn’t completely obsessed with the inner-workings of the Internet. At its very core, RebelMouse lets you curate your own magazine, full of photos, stories and videos that you choose to share, in the order that you’d like them shared. It’s a nice breakaway from the current model of reading a constant stream of information on Twitter or Facebook.
Think of RebelMouse as your Internet mixtape. While it’s not a completely new concept, it is very relevant in the age of people collecting items on Pinterest so it’s the right time for this product. Plus, it’s kind of fun to play with.
Paul is the CEO of CasaHop. Formerly Paul was the CTO of HuffingtonPost.com where he also heads up product development. Previously he built Avaaz.org and before that was CTO of CharterMac a real estate finance company that was market cap 4.5 billion at the time. Paul was VP, Internet for Palo Alto Software where he built bplans.com and the ecommerce business of paloalto.com. Most importantly, Paul was a co founder of thedogisland.com