A Year After Launch (And With 300K Sites Created), ‘Social Front Page’ RebelMouse Mulls Ad Strategy

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It’s been a little more than a year since former Huffington Post CTO Paul Berry first launched RebelMouse, a service allowing users to pull their content together from across social networks. To mark the occasion, Berry stopped by the TechCrunch office to look back at the past year and hint at his plans for the future.

Overall, Berry said that the service’s growth has backed up his initial vision.

“We haven’t done any pivots — we’ve just been following the core path,” he said. “A year ago, I had all these hypotheticals of how people could use the product. Now there’s an insane amount of anecdotal evidence.”

As shared in a company post, RebelMouse is now reaching 5 million unique monthly visitors, and its users have created 300,000 sites. Publishers like the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch- and Huffington Post-owner AOL, and Time have used the technology, as have brands like GE, Patagonia, and Sprout Organic Foods.

One thing you might notice about all of those links is that they don’t go to RebelMouse site itself, but instead to the websites of the publishers in question. Berry said that’s as it should be: “We want to be very clear to everyone that it’s not as important to us to be the destination as it is to help the open web.” That goes back to the original vision, where Berry realized that it’s “too hard” for many people to build and update a website using a traditional content management systems. With RebelMouse, you can take advantage of all the content that you’re already posting on other sites to create a unified, up-to-date presence, whether the “you” in question is a person or a company.

And if you want to pay RebelMouse for the privilege, even better. The company is already making money through a subscription program where users pay $9.99 a month to host their RebelMouse site at their own domain. The next step in Berry’s monetization plan is advertising, specifically the term that everyone is embracing nowadays, native ads.

Berry acknowledged that native “is a highly abused term” (in his view, native advertising means that the ad has to match the look and the content of the site), but he argued that RebelMouse can deliver sponsored content in a real-time way that’s sensitive to the user’s context: “We can give publishers native advertising at scale.”

Other future plans include the launch of smartphone apps (although Berry noted that mobile already accounts for a significant part of RebelMouse’s traffic.)

And of course, as RebelMouse evolves, so does the social media context in which it’s operating. The past year has seen the new social apps explode in popularity, and Berry predicted that the process will continue.

“It’s surprising, but social graphs, instead of gaining value over time, well, there’s an aspect that’s true, but there’s the opposite, where they lose value over time — people enjoy new networks,” he said. “That’s why RebelMouse’s goal is to remain the Switzerland of all of this.”