Editor Ryan Singel Departs Wired To Launch Publishing Tools Startup Contextly

Well, there goes another tech journalist with the startup bug.

Ryan Singel, editor of Wired’s security blog Threat Level, told me that today is his last day on the job, because he’s leaving to run his startup Contextly. Over the past decade, Singel has held various reporting and editing roles at Wired — apparently he helped start Threat Level back in 2006, and I got to know him few years later, when he was writing for the site’s Epicenter business blog.

With Contextly, he said his goal is to “make tools for journalists actually designed by journalists, rather than marketers or advertisers or techie guys that don’t actually get how journalism works.” It turns out  that he’s been testing one of Contextly’s tools on Wired.com for the past few months — if you read any story on the site and see links to related stories at the end, those are provided by Contextly. (Also, the fact that Wired is using Singel’s product suggests that the departure is amicable.) Other early testers include BoingBoing and CultOfMac.

There are two main components to the recommended stories widget — a section for “Related” stories, which are actually selected by the writer , and another area called “You Might Like,” where the links are algorithmically selected and point to a wider range of content on the site. The idea is to balance editorial control with the automation and random discoveries that technology can provide.


Singel sent me an early copy of his blog post describing the company, where he said Contextly makes it “simpler and faster” to add links to a story, avoiding the  “mind-numbing drudgery of tab switching, searching and cutting-and-pasting.” This Related Links product is already available as a plugin for WordPress, and Singel plans to support other platforms too.

Contextly is also building analytics tools, and ways for publishers to present their readers with “non-annoying offers” for email lists, conference tickets, whitepapers, and more. And there’s a longer product roadmap:

We’re called Contextly because we believe context is everything and that current CMSes largely treat each new story or post as if it has no connection to what came before it. We have an expansive conception of what context means and believe new tools can make news better for readers, more fun to publish as journalists and more profitable for publishers, big and small.

The company is “proudly bootstrapping and bringing in revenue,” Singel said. Meanwhile, he said Wired is still figuring out who will fill his role at threat level.