Swoop Gives Food Websites An Injection Of Local Deals

Swoop, a startup that’s launching today, says it’s giving food websites a new way to convince readers to stick around, and to make some money in the process.

CEO Ron Elwell says Swoop’s technology can look at the text of a food website and automatically inject links to local deals when they’re relevant. So, for example, if a site includes a recipe that calls for mayonnaise, Swoop can insert a link at the mention of mayonnaise, and if the reader clicks on it, a small window will open showing any nearby deals on mayonnaise. Users can specify their zip code and which stores they’re interested in seeing deals from, and they can create shopping lists of the items they want. Elwell says Swoop will add more personalization options over time (the company tracks repeat users through cookies).

You can see a Swoop-linked site here.

Most of this content will be totally free for the stores — Swoop is just trying to aggregate as many local deals as it can, whether they’re pulled from the store’s website, a feed of new deals, or wherever. However, it can also include special ad links. In one example that Elwell showed me, in a recipe calling for black pepper, Swoop added a link touting the health benefits from black pepper’s antioxidants, and clicking on the link brings up an ad for a specific brand. Elwell emphasizes that these ads are a “completely closed system” — they don’t lure visitors away from your page by linking to the advertiser’s website (or to anyone else’s).

There are other companies offering to insert advertising or affiliate links into online text. One of the distinctions, Elwell says, is that Swoop isn’t just trying to help publishers make money, but also to bring a “search discovery” experience to their site. After all, one of the most common things for someone to do after viewing an online recipe is to search for places where they can find the ingredients at a low price, so this should be a natural way to keep readers at a website for a longer period of time. Advertising should only be a small percentage of the links that Swoop creates. (Even though the actual execution is pretty different, listening to Elwell talk about his vision reminded me a bit of Apture, a startup that was recently acquired by Google.)

For now, Swoop’s service is limited to local offers, but Elwell says it will be adding coupons, Amazon offers, and advertising in the next month or so. He also describes this as a “horizontal” technology, so the company plans to expand beyond food into other areas, like baby and beauty products.

The company is looking to work with publishers large and small — for the smaller sites, the company offers a self-serve option where publishers provide a few details then receive JavaScript for their site. As for bigger publishers, the Swoop press release includes a quote from Kristine Welker, chief revenue officer at Hearst (publisher of Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan, among other magazines), who says she’s “excited about how Swoop can integrate with our existing content.”

Last fall, Swoop announced a funding round US Venture Partners, Valhalla Partners, and General Catalyst. Elwell tells me the amount raised was $4.8 million.