AOL's Surphace Goes Self Serve With Private Beta Of S4

Surphace, previously called Sphere, is an excellent tool for bloggers and other publishers to add related content to their articles and posts. The company, which was acquired by AOL in 2008, has now released S4, a self serve product that gives smaller sites the ability to use Surphace’s more advanced features. More than 2 billion articles per month bring in Surphace content, says CEO Josh Guttman.

Until now only the largest publishers were able to tailor the types of related content links, as well as the look and feel of the Surphace widget. Small sites had to make due with a standard pop up Surphace widget that had little flexibility in terms of content and design.

Now, sites of any size can customize the size, interface and types and quantity of content that Surphace pulls into posts. The result, says Surphace, is higher reader engagement.

Here’s an example of a site beta testing S4 (scroll down to the bottom of the post and look for the Surphace content. Here’s another one with different content and design.

Setup is very straightforward. Most people will choose a narrow, standard or wide column widget, and publishers can decide to include content from their own site(s), mainstream media, blogs and/or video. Surphace decides what content is relevant to the post (they tend to do an excellent job). Publishers can also choose to completely customize the Surphace content with a bit more work:

In the future, says Guttman, Surphace will give S4 publishers the option to embed advertising from Aol with a revenue share. And they’ll add “real-time conversational buzz” from Twitter streams.

S4 is currently in private beta. If you are a publisher and want to give S4 a try, sign up here and use the invite code s4tc. The first 250 publishers to use the code will get instant access.