Last month Skimlinks, the platform that allows publishers full control over affiliate links and content monetization, completed a growth financing round led by Greycroft Partners and others, while expanding into Asia. This month it has new products to roll out, launching two major initiatives. The question is, how does it stand up to the competition?
The first new product is called Showcases, which is a visual alternative to the in-line-text offering its had for some time.
Showcases are ad units that sit alongside content and populate automatically based on the products mentioned in an article, geo-targeted to the user. It means publishers don’t have to manually add an image to illustrate an article, like this.
Secondly, Fashion Engine, instead of identifying products that include model numbers or brand names, finds product references that use entirely normal English words, e.g. “Kim Kardashian was seen wearing a black leather dress.” This vertical-optimized semantic engine is thus aimed at fashion publishers, such as here and here.
Alicia Navarro, co-founder and CEO, says competitors don’t offer these kinds of products: “Both VigLink and RewardStyle don’t offer an accurate automated in-text/near-text solution geared towards fashion publishers. It is really hard to do well in non-techy verticals, and we have built the means to do it, at scale, in real-time.”
They also plan to expose the API behind this new service. It sounds bold but Navarro says they want to become the “Twilio of e-commerce with our path towards open APIs for all our products.”
But competitors have a few words to say about these moves.
When asked, Oliver Deighton, VP of marketing of Viglink, takes slight issue with this. He says VigLink Insert has been optimized since 2012 for over a dozen categories and the VigLink catalog API already enables publishers to “create custom and highly visual shopping experiences.”
Oliver Krohne, Founder & CEO of Yieldkit says “Alicia is right that verticals beside tech are different as you don’t have proper names like “iphone” or “galaxy tab”… However, approaching the standard ad spaces means also facing harder competition in terms of CPM rates, which you receive from all ad networks or Adsense. So it will be a challenge to exceed those.”
Navarro, however, has words for these guys. “VigLink Insert was launched a while after our SkimWords product, but their solution has never been real-time… and it is a simple word match solution, rather than ours which is a trained natural language processing engine… we don’t know of a single fashion site running VigLink Insert.”
“YieldKit’s comments are true, some publishers do place us in standard ad unit places, but we encourage publishers to create new real estate for Showcases alongside content, rather than placing them in peripheral ‘ad’ spots. As we evolve Showcases we will weave in behavioural optimization and even richer content so we achieve comparable earnings to traditional ‘ads.’”
Whatever the case, the race is on to capture this market, and Skimlinks seems to be making most of the running right now.