This One Simple Trick Might Help ContentOro Banish Stale Clickbait

In today’s world, where we’re never far from a screen—smartphone, laptop, television—content is king. Companies and brands need engaging material to draw the eyeballs of online customers, but younger consumers, millennials in particular, have shown a distaste for ads. Essentially, they are far more susceptible to the recommendations of friends and other influencers than they are to traditional advertising.

With those shifting tastes mind, Internet marketers began distributing “advertorials”—sponsored content made to look like articles written by journalists—that were often poorly constructed, utterly disposable, and ubiquitous to the point of being obnoxious.

At this point, so many sites use the outdated strategy of linking to affiliate clickbait such as “This Simple Quiz Will Reveal Your Metabolic Type” or “60 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Had Died,” that you’d think nobody except children and rubes would click on in the first place. The fact that many top sites are getting this content from the same few providers doesn’t help the perception that the material is hopelessly stale.

Now, an Ann Arbor, MI-based startup called ContentOro seeks to change this dynamic by creating an online market for written material that functions similarly to Getty Images, where a site visitor can search for articles and other content by subject matter. Co-founded in 2014 by Bob Chunn, who spent 12 years overseeing, ContentOro works with publishers to extract and repurpose sections of relevant books, turning the content into articles, and then streaming that content to customers’ websites via an application programming interface.

“The book industry accommodates a lot of waste publishing,” Chunn said. “Books are still being printed on most relevant topics, and we can serve to update the industry by leveraging that content for marketing purposes.”

Because the material wasn’t created to be advertorial content—it was instead written as part of a book—Chunn said it’s of an inherently higher quality.

“It’s being written by someone who knows what they’re talking about,” he explains. “We don’t work with freelancers; instead, we take a book and use our proprietary software to break it into individual components.”

ContentOro provides its customers with more than just words, Chunn said, describing what the company does as “selling in context.” The startup delivers articles complete with imagery and references to its customers’ products woven into the text. For instance, if Pet Supplies Plus buys content about dogs, the article will contain links to leashes sold by the company.

Several people on the ContentOro team are Chunn’s former colleagues from Borders or otherwise have connections to the publishing industry. Chunn said ContentOro chose Ann Arbor as its headquarters because the city is “the center of books,” in part because it’s where Borders got its start. (Chunn also mentioned the massive book-scanning project U-M currently has underway in Ann Arbor with Google.)

Chunn has big plans for ContentOro in 2017. A $750,000 seed financing round is expected to close by the end of the month, he said, and the company scored a $50,000 investment from the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund earlier this month.

“We’re happy to have the money from the university, but the investment from Zell Lurie means much more to me than $50,000,” Chunn said, because of the relationship the company now has with U-M.

The nine-person ContentOro team will use its new capital to add functionality to its website. Starting next year, publishers will be able to load their own content onto ContentOro’s online marketplace. “Then our customers will be able to license and drag and drop content onto their sites the same day,” he said. “That doesn’t exist now unless you write the articles yourself.”

Chunn hopes the publishing industry benefits from ContentOro, too. “I feel passionately about creating an environment for book publishers to produce content for the Internet,” he said. “In my world, it’s exceptional content that gets brands real customers truly interested in their products. At the same time, we want to add a revenue stream for publishers. It’s a no-cost, no-risk formula for generating publishing revenue.”

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