Startup case study: Contextly

By John Stevenson

New media startup Contextly is an online service for publishers, bloggers and digital journalists. The technology uses an algorithm to display “related stories” to readers at specified locations on a website. This helps to increase readership by providing links to other content on their websites which readers may find interesting, therefore keeping them on the website longer. They have released a WordPress “Contextly Related Links” plugin so that bloggers can easily integrate the service into their websites, and their service is already being used by reputable online publications.

The startup was founded in 2012 by digital journalist Ryan Singel, who wrote for and other publications, and Ben Autrey, who helped build the backend, technical side of the software.

Singel told that his goal is to “make tools for journalists actually designed by journalists, rather than marketers or advertisers or techie guys that don’t actually get how journalism works.”

He initially began testing the beta version of Contextly on when he was still writing for the website.

What have they done well? I think their presentation, explanation and branding of the software is fantastic. It’s simple and easy to understand. However, I’m an avid WordPress user and this was the first time I’ve heard of this service (or at least the name Contextly). I think to improve they should re-evaluate their marketing plan. Also, I was surprised to see that the Contextly Twitter account (@contextly) only had 316 followers and 236 tweets.

What problems do they solve? When a website has a large amount of content, I know firsthand that it can become difficult to present all of that to readers. And readers likely aren’t interested in that much information. Therefore, by suggesting to them relevant stories, they are more likely to be connected with something that interests them rather than searching or browsing through pages of archived content.

I was interested to learn what their revenue model was. The WordPress plugin is free, but its features are limited. For more advanced options, they have offered a tiered pricing plan, beginning with “Personal Plus” for $9 per month, “Startup” for $49 per month, “Business” for $99 per month, and an individually-priced “Enterprise” option. These paid plans come with advanced features such as expanded customizability, detailed analytics and more.

I think they are still in the process of establishing the service, but it will definitely be interesting to see how it grows and adapts to the changing digital landscape over the next few years.

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