Tagged Startup Insider Interview with Contextly

At Tagged, we are fortunate to cross paths with a lot of small companies that are doing remarkable things. These companies are often Tagged alumni, advised by Tagged team members, or just friends hanging around the office (which happens a lot actually). They are run by very smart, cool people that we want to support. So recently, we were thinking we should start talking about these companies!

Enter Contextly.

Contextly has the honorific distinction of being the first company featured on the Tagged blog. We could go on, but let’s let the Contextly guys speak for themselves.

Who are you guys?

Contextly was founded by me, Ryan Singel, as a way to solve some of the problems I faced as a writer and editor for Wired for a decade.

Ryan Singel of Contextly visits Tagged.

What is Contextly?

Contextly is a related links service that displays links to a publisher’s other great content in a widget at the bottom of a story and in sidebars in the body of a story. We help sites show off the depth and the breadth of their content to readers of individual articles. This keeps readers reading, instead of leaving the site to go check Facebook again.

Publishers live in the age of drive-by readers who click on a link in Reddit or Twitter or Facebook and then read an article and leave, often without even realizing what site they were on. That means the individual article page becomes even more important than ever, both for generating more page views and for building a brand.

Our aim is to hit a trifecta — being good for readers, for writers and for publishers.

What was the genesis of Contextly?

At Wired, writers long understood the value of putting the day’s story into context by pointing readers to stories that came before. But doing that with a text file template that got copied and pasted into the body of the story was tedious and not dynamic. While the story’s a bit longer than that, basically, Contextly started by a tech writer trying to solve a daily problem and then realizing how much more there was to related links than just having a widget at the bottom of a story.

I’ve seen lots of sites with related links boxes. What makes you all different?

Most of those boxes are powered by algorithms that publishers have little to no control over, and which have no input from those who know best what previous stories are relevant — the writers and editors themselves. Take for instance a story about Google’s fiber project in Kansas City. An algorithm is going to key off the words fiber and Kansas City, while a writer knows that stories about net neutrality and broadband caps are much more relevant than a story about a bad AirBnB stay in Kansas City.

We think about the problem very differently from others — mostly because we come from the world of editorial, which means we have some very interesting cards up our sleeve. We’ve seen some very interesting results for our early beta customers, including Wired, which is encouraging that a different approach actually works.

Is this built only for big publications?

No, Contextly is actually quite good for any publication or blog that has deep content. We’re building some features that are very targeted to more niche publications — think a company blog like this one — which has different aims from a bigger, mass audience publication.

Are you funded?

We’re bootstrapping, but are already bringing in significant revenue. We’re not averse to talking to investors — smart ones — but we haven’t tried to raise a round yet.

Can I use Contextly on our site?

Certainly. If you run a smaller publication using WordPress, you can install it yourself and try it for free for a month. If a site does significant traffic, runs on a different publishing system or is a corporate blog, we’d love to talk with anyone about how we work and what your challenges are, which is a better intro to the product and helps us constantly improve Contextly.

Peter Berger is the Director of Strategic Development at Tagged dedicated to growing people and ideas through mentorship and partnership. Look for more of his Tagged Startup Insider Interviews in the coming year.