Search is no longer the only way people find stuff on the Web.Instead of always firing up Google, people go to their social networks. They watch the videos their friends post to Facebook, read articles from Twitter, or find recipes on Pinterest.
Gravity, a startup founded by three ex-MySpace execs, is already cashing in on this shift.
Gravity builds “interest graphs” on people. It watches public data, like what’s trending on social networks (Tweets, shares, Diggs, etc.), and sees what content individuals are reading on the sites where it is used. It then puts a bunch of links and ads in front of people that are likely to click.
Gravity was founded in 2009 and its service went live about six months ago. Since then, its technology has been put to work on about 10 big web sites such as the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Time, and Buzzmedia, Through those sites, it’s used by 180 million people, and serves more than 13 million personalised bits of content daily.
Gravity is taking on Google in another way: it gets paid by serving ads via its own ad network via a shared revenue model.
Kapur says it’s easy money, “Whatever sections we personalise have a two to three times click-through rate. Users come back three times as often, and there are 40-60% more page views on a monthly basis,” compared with their actions before Gravity.
But the most interesting part of Gravity is that it can personalise recommendations instantly when visitors sign in with Facebook or Twitter.
Along with search, they want to give the daily deals business a makeover, too, co-founder Amit Kapur told Business Insider.
The company will soon announce agreements with two flash deal providers. (It’s not saying which ones, but a safe guess would be BeachMint, which was founded by MySpace cofounder Josh Berman.)
Flash deal sites can’t use the personalisation methods of Netflix and Amazon, which make their recommendations by watching what people do over time. Flash deals don’t last long enough for that. So, interest graphs are instant and will let these sites better target the right people. Gravity will take a cut of sales.
Gravity also sells access to its analytics engine to web sites. It measures page views and referrals and then offers advice on what stories to publish, or not.
Ultimately, Kapur and gang want Gravity to become a service that consumers can sign up for. Enter your credentials and wherever you go on the Web, it will recommend stuff you’ll want to see — videos, new songs, articles — and plenty of relevant ads along the way.
Kapur’s co-founders are also from MySpace: Jim Benedetto and Steve Pearman. Gravity raised $10 million from August Capital and Redpoint Ventures in 2010 and employs 20 people.