Friday, June 11, 2010

Deirdre Breakenridge: Scribnia for Discovering and Rating Bloggers

I met David Spinks (@davidspinks) in May at the PRSA Digital Impact Conference in New York City. I felt like I already knew David just through our interactions on Twitter. After meeting him IRL and learning about his company, Scribnia, I thought it would be interesting to have a Q&A with him to find out more about an organization that helps PR professionals find and rate bloggers.

A little bit about David … he is the Community Manager for Scribnia (where readers can review and discover online authors and bloggers) and he is also the co-founder of the #u30pro with Lauren Fernandez (@cubanalaf), a dynamic chat session on Twitter that takes place on Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Here’s my Q&A with David:

Q. Tell me a little bit about how Scribnia started?

A. Scribnia was started by Russell D’Souza and Jack Groetzinger in 2009 based on a simple idea: There were a ton of bloggers and other writers online, but there was no where for readers to share their opinions of their writing. We wanted to provide a platform where readers could share the writers they love and hate with each other, discover new writers and learn of a writer’s biases and focuses from their readers. We launched Scribnia while participating in the DreamIt program in Philadelphia in the summer of 09. The company has since been sold, revamped and relaunched under the ownership of the new CEO, Marc Duquette.

Q. How do you think Scribnia will help PR professionals in their blogger relations programs?

A. You’ll find influential writers on Scribnia that you often wouldn’t find anywhere else because of how our content and rankings are generated…100% crowdsourced by readers.

Agencies like Porter Novelli and SHIFT Communications have already started to use Scribnia in their regular outreach programs.

Unlike other tools that PR professionals use, Scribnia allows you to find the bloggers that are specifically suitable for the audience you’re trying to reach. For example, say your client is selling baby bottles, and you need to find mom-bloggers who focus on newborns, rather than adolescents. You can use Scribnia to filter down to the writers that are writing for your specific audience…in this example, mothers with newborn babies.

(If it helps, here’s a quick video showing you how to use the Scribnia filters to find writers based on their specific focuses:

Additionally, what you’ll find unique with Scribnia, is that since we rank writers 100% based on reader reviews, it’s not always the “A-List” bloggers you see first, like you do on sites like Alltop or Technorati. There’s only one way to be found on Scribnia, and that’s by writing well and engaging with your readers… two things that are important for blogger outreach campaigns.

We are working on adding a number of new functions that will make the blogger outreach process much easier, and more efficient for PR pros as well as for bloggers…so stay tuned.

Q. How are you growing the Scribnia community?

A. As a blogging focused site, it’s very important for us to be present in blogging communities across the web. We are constantly on Twitter (@Scribnia) responding to bloggers with questions, participating in lively chats like blogchat, journchat, and sharing posts from the amazing bloggers that we come across within the Scribnia community. We also participate on blogging forums, ning networks, and anywhere else where we can meet and engage with bloggers on the web. We’re also very fortunate to have power users that have been supporting us from the start. Without them, we wouldn’t be here today.

A lot of our growth is also due to how the site works. Any user can add a writer to the site…even without the writer’s knowledge. Bloggers typically are interested in what their readers and others have to say about them, so when they see that people are talking about them and reviewing them on Scribnia, they’re inclined to come check us out. That’s where I come in to engage with them, see what we can do to help, and hopefully earn their trust and support over time.

Q. What are some of the most helpful features or ways people are interacting on the site?

A. Most of the interaction that goes on is between bloggers and their readers. Often, readers will review a writer, and the writer will comment with a response to the review. It’s a great way for readers to provide feedback on a writer’s work in a way that they just couldn’t do in blog comments or on an open platform like Twitter. It’s a dedicated feedback platform.

We actually make it possible for that interaction to occur on blogger’s own sites using the “Scribnia Review Widget”. This widget allows readers to read, and write reviews of the blogger, right on their blog without ever having to leave their site.

Another big function of our site is recommendations. We take pride in being able to provide highly personalized recommendations to users. We do this in two ways:

1) Your friends. You can find all of your friends who are using Scribnia easily by connecting your Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts. Once you’re connected on Scribnia, you can easily click “Recommend” on any writer’s page, and choose which friends you’d like to recommend the writer to. So, if I find this really sweet cooking blog, and I know my friend is big into cooking, I can recommend the writer to them and it will appear on their recommendations page.

2) When a user reviews a number of writers (set at 5 right now), we can learn of their tastes in writers. I won’t go into too much detail, but we use the focus/bias filters that I discussed earlier, to match you with writers that have focuses that you tend to rate highly. So, for example, if you’re into marketing, and you tend to give a higher rating to writers who write about “low budget” approaches to marketing campaigns, we can recommend other writers who share that same focus.

Q. What’s next for Scribnia?

Well we plan to be bigger than Google by 2011 by upping our SEO efforts. (bwaha…ha…)

But seriously, we just hope to keep the site and community growing. It’s been amazing so far, and we know the more great writers we get involved, the more valuable our site becomes for readers, writers, and businesses.

As far as features go, we’re constantly building and improving. A number of new widgets will be available soon that bloggers will be able to customize for their site.

We’re also exploring and developing a few avenues to make that money. To this point, we’ve really just focused on building up the community and content...Deirdre Breakenridge

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