Meghan Markle To #MeToo: Spot.IM Ranks The Hot-Button Topics That Generated The Most Comments in 2017
Spot.IM, an Israeli startup that manages comments sections and reader engagement for some of the world’s top digital news publishers like Fox News and AOL, has revealed which topics generated the most buzz in 2017.
Unsurprisingly, bitcoins, US President Donald Trump, global hurricanes, and the #MeToo campaign were all on the list. Spot.IM also predicts the upcoming May wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle will be the big event of 2018.
The ranking is based on “measuring the extent of the responses in articles published on Fox News, Forbes, Time, AOL, The Huffington Post and hundreds of content sites,” Spot.IM CEO Nadav Shoval said in a statement. “The events that created most of the discussions on the Internet changed the world in which we live and reshaped it.”
As Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, his inauguration fueled strong, emotional reactions of joy and anger, Spot.IM said, provoking what it said to be the largest round of demonstrations in US history and a large round of heated discussion at the same time. Trump’s own controversial comments on social media further “stirred the pot” and created more talkbacks on some of the largest news sites.
Bitcoin made the transition from the tech and financial sectors to the general public, people began to discuss the implications of this digital currency as well as other cryptocurrencies, and blockchain, the technology that bitcoin is based on. Talkbacks included betting on the currency value and boasting from bitcoin fans every time it broke a record, Spot.IM said.
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Hurricane season began in June and ended in November. During that time, much of the damage came from the season’s major hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which caused widespread panic on news website comment sections, even before the storms actually hit, Spot.IM said. Later, when they caused irreparable damage worldwide, comments and talkbacks included personal stories from people who spoke of the damage to their homes and lives, as well as their process of recovery and repair.
When news of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein broke out in a New York Times article in October, comments were angry, with people lashing out against the sexual predators. Later, as the discussions increased, Spot.IM says the talkbacks swelled into an international movement dubbed #MeToo, where men and women came out with their own personal stories of sexism, sexual harassment, and abuse.
The wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was actually not included in this year’s ranking, but an initial number of comments has Spot.IM predicting it will be the big event of 2018. This interest could stem from Markle’s celebrity status in the US or the fact that she is biracial, as that was the subject of many of the discussions, according to Spot.IM.
Spot.IM, an Israeli startup founded in 2012 by current CEO Nadav Shoval and CTO Ishay Green, aims to establish what Green calls “a new kind of social network,” through the comments section of a digital news publisher. In other words, they aim to help publishers keep reader engagement directly on the their online news sites, without moving to other social networks.
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“Audiences today only visit publisher sites for a few seconds before escaping to Facebook to discuss the content, and this is a huge challenge for publishers,” Spot.IM CEO Nadav Shovel said in a statement earlier this year, “We’re committed to solving this problem by building communities to keep users engaged on publisher sites.”
Ishay Green, who co-founded Spot.IM after his previous startup Soluto was acquired for between $100 million to $130 million by device insurance provider Asurion, tells NoCamels the idea came to them after speaking with publishers, who said their readers were being taken away by social networks like Facebook. “We talked to publishers and asked them what they need,” Green told NoCamels, “They asked for tech that creates engagement on their site.”
While Green reiterates that the company is not in direct competition with any social network, he says the mission of the firm is to make publishers’ comments section more social network-like. Back in November 2017, Techcrunch described Spot.IM’s newest version as “akin to a newsfeed, morphing all the articles on a given site into the equivalent of social media posts.”
Investors like the Tel Aviv-based firm Altair VC and the UK- based group Norma Investments have shown they believe in the company’s goal, as they recently contributed to helping the platform raise $25 million in a Series C funding round, which was led by New York-based Insight Venture Partners. Spot.IM previously raised at least $13 million since it was founded in 2012.
The company you’ve never heard of?
While Spot.IM’s clients include some of the largest digital publishers in the world, including AOL, Engadget, The Drive and Time Inc.; a scroll through Fox News reveals a discussion-heavy comments section, but no branding from Spot.IM.
Green says that Spot.IM is “brandless” and that if they want to win over the current social network system, they have to be brandless because the concept is about building a definitive talkbacks section for the online publisher that boosts engagement. “We have a large userbase and we don’t intend to let people know,” he adds. He reiterates that the publisher’s brand belongs to them and that even the revenue is a shared model and split between both Spot.IM and the publisher. “Today, the newspapers understand that the competition is Facebook,” Green explains. “We want a publisher’s comments section to be a social graph of people who have the same interests as you. It’s a democratization of the distribution of the news. Our algorithm is about the community. Leaders will come together on a standalone social network by Spot.IM for publishers.”
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While the goal of the startup is to keep conversations and social media interactions directly on site, added advertising revenue is a welcome bonus. According to Shoval, Spot.IM’s efforts to keep users on sites longer increase ad revenue for the publisher. The company has also built additional ad units, working out a revenue share model that will keep the company from charging media outlets for their services. Green added that the company wants to be partners with the publishers and not vendors, splitting the revenue with their clients.
According to Green, Spot.IM is about to launch another product, which is not related to comments. Launching in BETA in a few weeks, the product will be a full community page for digital publishers, with similarities to Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. The tech behind this community, Green says, will usher in a new social graph of user-contributed content based on a topic through a single page application. Soon, Donald Trump may just have his own page on Fox News.