Livefyre’s Engagement Cloud helps companies manage user-generated content

Livefyre is perhaps best known for powering the comments sections beneath an untold number of articles from across countless websites. But the company is about more than comments — it’s about helping companies use the content generated by basically everyone who uses the Internet to suit their own goals. Today it’s announcing a new platform so it can do that better than in the past.
“Brands now have to produce more content than they ever have in history,” says Livefyre chief executive Jordan Kretchmer. “If they want to engage their audience, if they want to build community around their sites and mobile apps and stores, they have to create content to do that.” But hiring a bunch of people to make that content can be expensive; user-generated content is a lot cheaper.
That’s where Livefyre comes in. Kretchmer breaks Livefyre down into four areas: discovering content from the social Web; organizing that content into manageable pieces; publishing that content to a website or social network; and then keeping an eye on how well that content performs after its publication. These used to be separate tools, but now they’re all lumped in with each other.
“This has been the big product effort for the last nine months,” Kretchmer says. “As we grew as a company and started delivering on more value and pieces of functionality to more customers, we of course had to bring more pieces into our platform.” This became unwieldy, so the company has built a dashboard to tie everything together in a service anyone should be able to use.
That dashboard presents data collected from many different sources. It then sorts through all that content, presents it to a worker given the soul-crushing job of reposting #brand related stuff to their company’s online properties, and allows them to publish it on their Facebook page or website or wherever. Why pay for some original content when so many people are giving it away for free?
There is, of course, the simple matter of getting the rights to that content. Livefyre has rights management baked in; all a brand has to do to use someone’s tweet, photo, or miscellaneous ramblings is ask for permission. If the person who made that piece of content agrees, the brand is able to do whatever they want with it, and it’s permanently stored on Livefyre’s cloud.
Kretchmer says this was the number-one most requested feature from Livefyre’s customers. He assures me that content for which brands haven’t secured the rights will be deleted from the company’s cloud if a user deletes it from whatever service to which they shared it to begin with; if the rights to that content are handed over, however, they’ll remain available in perpetuity.
All of which means that every Facebook post, Instagram photo, and Tweet can be used to promote whatever a company wants to get in front of its customers. The good news: They’ll have to ask permission first, provided those companies are using Livefyre. It ain’t much of a silver lining, but at least it’s something.

Medium hires its first head of content advertising

Medium has hired someone to develop its native advertising partnerships, the first such role for the company. As Mathew Ingram previously reported, the blog company is expanding its content advertising, publishing sponsored posts that look similar to regular Medium stories. Riddhi Shah, the new hire who will oversee these efforts, will hold the title “Branded Content Lead.” (Disclosure: Shah and I interned together at The Nation four years ago.)

For Medium, bringing on its first content advertising manager is a significant move. It shows the blogging company is shifting gears, starting to prioritize revenue as it moves into its fourth year. (Medium did not respond to a request for comment sent  Thursday.)

Befitting its part publisher identity, Medium is turning to someone with a more traditional New York media background, instead of tech or business, to lead the charge. Prior to joining Medium, Shah was the Editorial Director of branded content for The Huffington Post. She worked with companies like Chipotle and TED, who advertised on particular HuffPo sections. For example, Chipotle sponsored a “Food for Thought” page as it attempted to remake itself as an environmentally and ethically conscious company.

Shah was uniquely suited for the position because she worked as a journalist for eight years prior, reporting for a variety of publications in India and the U.S. That background made it easier for her to pitch brands potential story ideas they could sponsor. Medium’s hope is that she’ll bring similar brand negotiation skills to the blogging application.

As Mathew covered, Medium wants native advertising to become a key source of funding. Even before hiring Shah, Medium already started lightly experimenting with it, launching a travel vertical called Gone, by Marriott Hotels, and a design section called Re:form, by BMW.

These stories are labeled as being “presented” by these brands, although they’re not necessarily about the companies themselves. For example, Marriott paid the expenses for Medium writers to travel to Haiti and report on the evolution of business there since the massive 2010 earthquake. You can read Mathew’s piece for a good take on the journalism ethics considerations.

From a business perspective, content advertising is well-suited for design-centric Medium. It can avoid ugly, distracting banner ads and reap more worth for brands by helping them subtly associate with certain causes or ideas.

As paid content booms, will ad opportunities shrink?

Numbers of people paying for digital content will take off thanks to new media devices, Forrester forecasts. If paid content becomes commonplace, will publishers turn their back on advertising, and what should marketers do instead?

Awards shows finally treat cat videos like the art they are

As long as there’s been Internet video, cats have dominated the medium — which is why it’s surprising that it took until 2012 for two separate entities (one branded, one independent) to finally give cat videos the serious consideration you may or may not think they deserve.