With Apture, Hyperlinks Get Rich Media

This past weekend I met Tristan Harris, a Stanford dropout, to talk about his startup Apture, which has developed a cool new way to add a rich media experience to web content in a simple and easy-to-use manner.

Founded in July 2007, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company was started by Harris and three others, and has remained in stealth since, but is now announcing the beta availability of its technology, which has been adopted by the Washington Post for its web site and some of its blogs. So how does it work?

First, the blogger has to embed a tiny sliver of JavaScript code somewhere (preferably in the footer of) their blog template and sign into their account on Apture.com. After that, you can highlight a word or a phrase and can add a link by right-clicking. The company offers web crawl results in an easy-to-use manner, including Wikipedia references, YouTube videos and photos from Flickr, or even PDF files (using Scribd’s iPaper technology.) You can manually add links from your own archives. (See demo)

While it seems simple enough, Harris explained that Apture’s ability to provide relevance and context to all the web index is what gives the tiny startup an edge. In addition, he points to the new user experience as Apture’s advantage.  The company has filed patents for some of its key technologies.

From a reader’s perspective, when someone hovers over an Apture linked term, a widget-like box opens, and offers a quick glimpse into related material chosen by the blogger (or site editor). Clicking an item in the floating box menu opens a small window where readers can view an article, video or photo gallery, while continuing to stay on the original page.

It is sort of like those annoying Snap previews, except this preview has a high IQ. This is what I really like about this service, because it allows me to add true context to what I am writing. You can add the same content by copying and pasting code from, say, Flickr, or YouTube or Veoh, but Aptrue makes it dead simple to add this content.

The company, which has raised less than a million dollars in angel funding, wants to give away the service for free to smaller publishers and bloggers, and hopes to make money by charging large publishers. According to Portfolio.com:

Each little pop-up window contains a little banner ad — an ad the Post collects money for, even though, in some cases, it will be adjacent to content from an outside site …editors will avoid creating Apture links to any content that might post rights issues, such as network TV clips.

Apture is going to get a slice of that ad revenue. The problem Apture is going to face is that of scale. Their entire business, despite their technology, is that of business development. It would need supreme execution on their part to become a major force. That is why they should shift their attention to the e-commerce and travel sectors. In high-end e-tail, their technology is highly applicable because visual and video context can help close a sale.