RebelMouse first launched as a way for people to aggregate their social network updates into a “social front page,” but more recently, it’s been working to give publishers social tools for their own websites and apps, through a platform called Rebel Roar. Now it’s rolling out the latest piece of Rebel Roar — The River.
If you’re on Facebook or pretty much any other site with a newsfeed, the look of The River should be pretty familiar. Except it’s probably less random, since it’s tied to a specific site or community. Basically, The River creates a place where people can track community activity based on the people and the topics that they follow. And yes, it works in mobile apps, too.
It can be a challenge to build an online community, but RebelMouse founder and CEO Paul Berry (formerly CTO at the Huffington Post) pointed to a few features that help ensure that people aren’t just staring at an empty feed and wondering, “Where is everybody?” For one thing, he said it “ingests social graphs from all the networks, so that you’re not starting from zero.” Or, if you have a favorite writer or editor (ahem), you could follow them and see whenever they publish a new article on the main site.
Plus, you’re not just seeing comments, but other activities like follows and likes, which should give you get a good sense of what other people are reading and who they’re following. For example, animal news site The Dodo just launched its version of The River this week, and when I signed up, I was presented with a feed of recently published stories, no following required.
The River is interesting in and of itself, but I also wanted to talk to Berry about the broader strategy behind Rebel Roar, a platform that also includes the ability to A/B test headlines and feature social widgets like quizzes and polls. He said Rebel Roar is supposed to help companies fight back against online readers’ tendency to read one page or article and then go away.
Berry said this doesn’t reflect a change in direction for RebelMouse, but rather “iterating on the same thing.” He added, “More and more, at RebelMouse we’ve become obsessed with super charging content, growing audience, and turning that growth into lasting and loyal community.”
For some users, it’s enough to create the aforementioned social front page on the RebelMouse site, but there are publishers and brands who, understandably, want to build their own communities on their own sites.
“Really, the transition is we’ve evolved into a B2B SaaS company [i.e., a business that sells subscription software to other businesses],” he said.
Asked how many users RebelMouse has, Berry said there are 4.2 million overall, including 1,650 paying clients. He also noted that Rebel Roar is accelerating, since the time needed to create a Roar site has gone from months to weeks to days.