Guillaume Decugis couldn’t pinpoint why he wasn’t blogging. It’s not like he didn’t want to write – being a published author has been a dream of his since he was a teenager. He had valuable insight – having co-founded and sold a $120 million mobile music delivery startup, Musiwave.
“I realized I was much better at reacting to existing content and giving perspective, adding meaning,” says Decugis.
Instead of forcing what wasn’t, Decugis co-founded Scoop.it, an interest-based curation platform.
After signing up for an account and selecting your topic of interest, the service crawls the web for articles with relevant keywords based upon your given topic. You decide what gets published to your Scoop.it page, add comments, and take suggestions from others who follow your interest. Think Squidoo or Hubpages with a content engine, cleaner design, and better social integration.
Since it’s launch last November, Scoop.it has drawn 3 million unique visitors per month and 100,000 active users. Not bad.
The concept isn’t new. It’s the interest graph. You’re familiar with the social graph, the online representation of how we connect with those we know. The interest graph, similarly, connects us to what we know, or more accurately, what we pay attention to.
“We’re looking to tie the two together. The social graph is good, it connects you to those you have a common history with. But it doesn’t mean you share all of their interests.” Decugis continues, ”I’m an online gamer. If I post my gaming stuff on Facebook, I’m going to lose all but ten of my friends. ”
Curious to learn more about the interest graph, I sat down with the Scoop.it co-founder and CEO to dig deeper.
Tech Cocktail: What trends should we be looking for with the future of the interest graph?
Guillaume Decugis: First, I think that the major social networks are going to add a lot more filtering capabilities to try to address the information overload we have from our Facebook or Twitter streams. Clay Shirky said “It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure,” and he’s obviously being listened to: Google+ introduced Circles, Twitter bought Summify to come out with Twitter digests emails, Facebook lets us see either Top Stories or recent ones and distinguish between close friends and others.
These initiatives are clearly improving social networks but they stay designed around the social graph.
Second, we’re seeing search becoming social. We used to be in a world where search was interest-based but was a pull experience (you have to know what you’re looking for) and social was a push/media experience (enabling discovery, i.e. finding what you didn’t know you were looking for) but was a people-based experience. With Google’s recent updates, such as integrating Google+ results in Google Search, search tries to add some social serendipity for your interests.
Finally, as people get comfortable sharing not only with people they know but also reaching out to strangers, we’re seeing them want to use social sharing for their interests, and that’s where a big opportunity exists – Scoop.it was designed for that. Over time, if we can network people around their interests, we can change the way people meet each other, interact or view the world. It’s kind of the “Global Brain” concept that some philosophers such as Teilhard de Chardin theorized and predicted 80 years ago.
Tech Cocktail: How will the social graph play into the interest graph?
Decugis: Getting people to tell you their interests is hard. I would argue that the reason the interest graph initiatives historically failed is precisely because there was a lack of clear benefits for the user to offer them. Also, they tend to vary over time.
Enter social, which changed that for at least two reasons. First, it made us much more open to express ourselves. Second, it created the information overload perception we have, reinforcing the value of interests.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn educated us to the social graph, and we’re now getting more and more comfortable sharing. In the professional world, we also understand better and better the marketing value of curating content to derive thought leadership and visibility benefits for a brand or a business.
But it comes with frustrations. We have been given capabilities and shown the benefits, but not the way to reach our true target audience, which rarely is limited to our own social graph. Thinking in terms of interest graph means leveraging the social graph and social media not as a final but as a starting point. Expanding it through platforms like Scoop.it to address people out of our social graph but who share our interests. Reaching them through the “ricochet-effect” (i.e. reshares) but also through search engines as search becomes social.
Tech Cocktail: Who or what do you see as your greatest competition? What will it take for Scoop.it to prevail?
Decugis: There are obviously big players who also allow the easy-publishing benefit we’re offering: Tumblr and Pinterest are the 800-pound gorillas now. There are also a number of startups just starting to address this space.
We differ first by the format we’re using, which is great for what I call “serious content” (which by no means imply superior in my mind, but which is clearly different from women shoe picture or fuck yeah blogs): TED Talks, blog posts, ideas, long form articles, infographics, Slideshare presentations, etc.
The other aspect is precisely the “interest graph” component: Scoop.it is built with a topic-centric model, where users follow topics – not people. This makes it easier for experts of a particular topic to develop an audience and for anyone to follow their interests by getting signal without noise. These two components have been key in getting the traction we’re enjoying now, which probably makes Scoop.it one of the largest community of curators in the prosumer segment.
Tech Cocktail: In what ways can other entrepreneurs capitalize on the expansion of the interest graph the same way those early to Twitter dominated social?
Decugis: We have an open API, which pretty much exposes all of our content data. You can think of Scoop.it as a big database of millions of Web pages (links), which is only a fraction of the Web (billions and billions of Web pages) – but the good fraction. Good in the sense that our community of human curators have carefully selected these pages to publish them, but also gave them meaning in the sense that they enriched these links with meta-data such as topic, comments, photos, etc…. So while the Twitter fire hose is obviously an incredible resource to tap into, it might be too rich for those looking at quality content rather than large volumes. The Scoop.it API offers a very promising solution in that respect.