New Sphere Focuses On Connections Between News Stories

When blog search engine Sphere launched in May 2006, it included a unique feature that discovered, on the fly, stories related to what you were reading regardless of whether or not the two stories were hyperlinked.

The feature, called “Sphere It,” has grown in popularity and has helped Sphere get itself embedded in top blogs and news sites. We include a Sphere It link at the bottom of each post, which pulls up a window where other blog stories that talk about related issues are shown. and other major news sites have done the same. Today, a substantial portion of Sphere’s total traffic comes from these partner sites using the feature to generate more content (and page views) for readers.

Tonight Sphere relaunched their home page to reflect the usefulness of this feature. The main area of the site is broken down into four columns. On the left are major topics, like Top News, U.S. News, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, etc. Click on any topic and the second column populates with recent news items from Sphere partners (sites like ours, and others that include the Sphere It functionality) that has generated a lot of buzz, which is calculated based on page views for the item (against an average for the site) and other factors the company isn’t disclosing (but which probably include an anlysis of the extent to which other sites are writing about similar things).

Click on any news item and it is pulled up in column three. In column four, related news items are shown.

You can keep clicking on a topic infinitely. Click on a column four story – it moves left, and column four shows news items related to that story.

Like TechMeme, the new Sphere site can become a place that people check frequently to see what news is breaking in the blogosphere and mainstream media, and see other content about that topic. It’s different than TechMeme in that Sphere doesn’t require links between articles.

News sites that want to be included in Sphere It must add the feature to their sites. The Sphere home page has a link to do that.

Sphere has raised just $4 million to date from True Ventures, Trident Capital and a number of angel investors. The company has eight employees.