What follows is a Q&A with AddThis.com co-founder Dom Vonarburg.
Q) Most interviews end by asking if there is anything else you'd like to add, what specifically would you like people to know about AddThis up front?
A) AddThis.com is a brand new service that helps web surfers collect information online with a single click, and send it to their favorite bookmarking service, feed reader, wish list service, podcast service, etc. AddThis also helps web publishers promote their content (web pages, feeds, products, podcasts, etc) online by making it easier for their visitors to collect it, save it, and distribute it to social services. AddThis was launched in September at the DEMO conference, the launchpad for emerging technology.
Q) Do you see AddThis as a potentially big player in the Social Media Optimization (SMO) phenomenon since you make it easier for web publishers to get their sites bookmarked, and their podcasts and blog feeds subscribed?
A) We started working on AddThis back in March 2006, even before the term SMO was first coined. The idea behind AddThis was, and still is, to completely eliminate all obstacles web publishers have in distributing their content to visitors and the social media services they might use. Our internal term for it was initially social SEO, but I like Social Media Optimization better.
We think AddThis will be a very important player in the SMO space, as it is the first service to provide a generic gateway for collecting and distributing many different types of content. AddThis acts as a bridge between the web publisher, the web user, and the social media services.
Q) You've added a new angle to the bookmarks game with the "Products" button. If it takes off, it seems like it would be great for ecommerce sites, especially with the reporting attached. I haven't seen this anywhere else. What made you bring the product angle into an AddThis Product Button?
A) "Products" was the next logical step for us after bookmarks, feeds and podcasts. People want to collect and compare the products and services they find online, and ecommerce websites want to facilitate this process. By adding "Product" buttons to their pages, ecommerce websites are more likely to be included in their visitors' final purchase decisions. The button also helps spread these products to other people through social bookmarking and social shopping websites (Kaboodle.com, Wists.com, ThisNext.com, etc).
Q) You are offering AddThis as a free service. Is there any plan to move to a higher level plan to monetize it? I noted your participation in the DEMO conference where companies seek venture capital and seed funding. Were you seeking funding and were you successful?
A) Yes, the service is free and will continue to be free. Starting early next year, we will also provide a premium version of the service. I don't want to say too much at this point, but the premium service will provide many interesting features for web publishers, one of which will be more advanced statistics. Our primary goal with DEMO was to boost the launch of AddThis. We also received the attention of several investors.
Q) Providing stats was an extra step that probably increased costs and complexity for AddThis. What made you consider the reporting to publishers as an important part of a free service?
A) The statistics was a fairly simple feature to add and we thought it added a lot of value to web publishers, especially for products. For example, with the statistics, web publishers can find out which products their visitors are most interested in, which ones receive less attention, etc.
Q) Is there any connection with ClickAbility.com? ("Email This" "Save This" and "Print This")
A) ClickAbility is different in that it provides its own system for saving information. AddThis does not impose any destination for the content collected.
Q) Was the AddThis.com domain already yours, or did you purchase from an existing owner? It shows in domain records as being registered since 1998, but the WayBack Machine at Archive.org only shows a single page with nothing on it from 2002. So little history available on the domain. Has AddThis been in the works since 1998?
A) The domain was not ours; we purchased it from its previous owner in March 2006.
Q) Most bloggers providing RSS feeds to their users did their best to get each of about a dozen of those "Chiclets" allowing subscriptions through the most popular services posted in the margins of their blogs. Many bloggers are now relying on the FeedBurner service and moving to a single feed logo. How does the AddThis.com feed service compare to FeedBurner? Do you see FeedBurner as a competitor? A) FeedBurner's primary business is feed hosting and management. Feeds are only one type of content supported by AddThis, we support and will support many more types. We think our generic approach to content collection and distribution is truly unique. So we don't see FeedBurner as a direct competitor.
Q) Most big publishers and now thousands of smaller web site owners and bloggers are beginning to post Del.icio.us and Furl and Reddit logos and links on their pages in the hopes that site visitors will bookmark their pages in the social bookmarks services. Some are choosing to add a few links to some of the other bookmarking services, but few go beyond the top 5 social bookmarks site links. I see that AddThis Bookmark service offers 16 social bookmarks services. How did you decide ones which you would include? Certain popularity levels?
A) We picked the most popular bookmarking services based on popularity and visibility in the search engines. We only stopped at 16 because of time constraints, but we will add many more of them in the future. By letting AddThis maintain the list of bookmark and feed buttons, web publisher can better focus on their content.
Q) Do you have any plans for a tie-in with Digg? As a news popularity site, they have a different focus than the RSS feeds and Social Bookmarks services, but many site publishers are including "Digg This" links from their web pages as part of a "social media marketing" plan. Does your focus with AddThis stick to bloggers, product retailers, bookmarks, and podcasts or will you consider expanding into the news and other areas?
A) Social news is also a logical candidate for AddThis. We will also add other types of content based on user adoption.
Q) Is there anything else you'd like to Add(to)This? ;-) A) We think AddThis will play a big role because it makes a lot of sense for both web users and web publishers. You can think of AddThis.com as the more social sister of AddMe.com, or its Web2.0 extension. Each service helps you achieve a different kind of visibility.
As a publisher, I had been updating WebSite101 to a new template and had been considering including Furl, Reddit, Del.icio.us, and Digg, but came across the AddThis Demo launch story and dropped Furl and Reddit from the mix in favor of the AddThis "Bookmark" link, since AddThis supports all of the bookmarking services with one button.
I'm keeping the Del.icio.us and Digg links for now, but I think once publishers begin to realize they can simplify bookmarks and if users understand that they can use any social bookmark service through AddThis, that you'll see strong adoption of the service.
Good luck on wide adoption of AddThis by both the public and publishers Dom, I wish you the best of luck with your contribution to Social Media Optimization!
Mike, I want to thank you for this opportunity to answer these questions and describe our vision for AddThis.com; your questions were right on target!
Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.
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