A little more than three years after the company was first announced, personalization startup Gravity is doing a big launch today, opening up its suite of APIs so that they’re available to any publisher who wants to use them.
Founded by a trio of former Myspace executives, Gravity has created an “interest graph” mapping different topics, which it then uses to recommend different content to users based on their activity on a given site. As the technology becomes better-acquainted with each visitor, the recommendations should improve.
Kapur lays out a pretty ambitious vision about how personalization is “the future of content,” but publishers can implement Gravity in more limited ways — for example, by using the technology to create a “Recommended for You” widget that’s personalized for each reader.
Until now, the company has been working with a specific group of partner publishers. Those partners include CNN Money, which Gravity’s technology to deliver recommendations in its iPad app, and TechCrunch, which has a Gravity-powered “What You Missed” widget (it’s down and right from this post). Gravity says it already delivers 25 million content recommendations to 200 million users per day. That’s more a reflection of the reach of its publishers than usage from actual readers, but the company also some partners have seen clickthrough levels increase two or three times, with a 300 percent increase in return visits and 40 percent growth in session time.
Co-founder and CEO Amit Kapur (previously COO at Myspace) said it was always part of the plan to open up the platform to any publisher. So why has it taken several years to get to this point?
“I think when you’re trying to do this big and disruptive, you have to be methodical,” Kapur said, later adding, “You want things to happen sooner and faster, but you have to kind of build at the pace that helps you build that amazing product.”
Kapur also suggested that now is the time when “the market is ready to embrace personalization” — as one example, he pointed to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent interview about personalization as the future of search.
The tools will be available to publishers for free. The company will include sponsored stories in the recommendations and split the revenue with publishers (an approach that’s similar to other content recommendation services like Outbrain). Kapur said one of his big goals in the coming months is to grow the sponsored stories program and hire more salespeople. He also sees mobile as a big opportunity — the small screen size means that publishers want to give their readers a more personal experience, and it also means that they can’t rely on standard ad units to make money.
Gravity has raised a total of $20.6 million in funding, including a $10.6 million Series B last fall. Recent hires include former MediaPass sales executive Robert Leon as its vice president of sales and Josef Pfeiffer, previously a senior product manager at the Wall Street Journal, as its director of product.