Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Adding context to one’s web browsing or reading experience is as old as the web itself. The easiest activation of context is the hyperlink. If you want to know more about, say, Bruce Springsteen, and the author of the article takes the time to add a hyperlink to the Bruce Springsteen bio on Wikipedia, as I did here, the article offers more context and, thus, a more enriching experience.

But adding links takes time for the author. Not just time to add the code or use the convenient WYSIWYG link adder, but to find the right article, website or resource to use as context. It also means that the website visitor will have to leave your page (or at least look at the contextual content in a new window) which takes the focus off your blog or website.

Zemanta, one of my favorite blogging tools, took a step toward solving half of that problem with their tool. It offers up one-click link options to various keywords presented in your copy. Often, it will offer option to link the words, “Bruce Springsteen,” to the Wikipedia page or perhaps even The Boss’s website. That, coupled with Zemanta’s other tools, which I’ve written about here, make it very useful for bloggers.

But now the other half of that equation – taking traffic and focus away from your blog or website – has been solved. Now, using a plugin for your blogging software or content management system, you can offer up context, including images, videos and other multimedia, via hyperlink-like functionality, but right there on your website without losing visitors.

Image representing Apture as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Apture is an amazing new plugin that you can add to WordPress, Blogger, Moveable Type or Typepad blogs, or customize the functionality for different content management systems. It allows you to add Zemanta-like contextual links, but brings that content to your website in a pop-up window. Go ahead and click on or roll over any of the following: Bruce Springsteen in concert; Pittsburgh Pirates spring training; Kipp Bodnar and Wayne Sutton’s Social Web podcast.

Or try this one on for size: When I link to someone’s Twitter stream, like say, @LizStrauss, the tool brings up Liz’s stream in the pop-up without you ever having to leave Social Media Explorer. You can immediately see what someone is talking about on Twitter. If you’re blogging about a certain conference or topic with a hashtag, say, #sxsw, your visitors can see the latest in that conversation with a click.

(Click on a few of these links to experience it. Leave the window open if you want or close it out.)

You never leave SME. You also get a more contextual experience around this post and have a plethora of multimedia available to you in your visit here. While I will say I don’t like the roll-over-enabled pop-ups, it’s still pretty impressive. I’d like for the roll-over pop-ups to go away if I roll off, or just have the pop-ups only appear if I click. But that’s my personal preference. Perhaps Apture will add a setting (I didn’t see one) to enable that preference per user.

(For those of you with a not-so-tech-savvy audience, it makes you look like a web wizard or big-time publishing house.)

Speaking of big-time publishing houses, Apture is currently deployed on The Washington Post, BBC News and SF Gate (the San Francisco Chronicle online), among others. It gives those online publishing outlets a more engaging experience for their readers which is certainly something the traditional media outlets can use in the online space.

You can even set it to enable a Wiki mode and have your visitors allowed to edit your website. (Not on your life. Heh.)

The installation is fairly simple. You add the plugin (which for me required a download, unzip, FTP the files, then activate in WordPress), install a script in your blog’s footer, which Apture conveniently does for you if you want, then start using it.

Because your link options are based on search, the actual implementation of the links using the tool in your site’s admin can be a little slow and clunky. Zemanta’s links are on-click. But the functionality you get is a much better.

But here’s a real differentiator: If you’re logged in to your website’s admin and simply browsing the actual page, Apture’s tool allows you to highlight a word and add contextual links as you see the page – you don’t even have to be in the admin to add the context. It creeped me out at first, but when I started browsing back through old posts and popping in links left and right, I liked it. A lot. In fact, that functionality might be better for adding links than using the interface in the admin tool. (Strange they’d be different, but they seem to be.)

You will have to sign up for an account (free) at Apture and make sure the tool is talking to your website or blog, but the instructions are easy to follow and it doesn’t take much effort to make it all work.

Just to clarify, Apture takes the contextual practice of linking to a whole new level. In that sense, it is Zemanta on crack. However, Zemanta still offer better ease of use (one-click linking), embeds images with one click (like the Apture logo above) and performs searches (either semantic or manual) to offer related articles to link to from your post. I’ve used both Apture and Zemanta tools on this post to take advantage of the strengths of both.

And if you’d like to add context, multimedia and a more enriching experience to your website or blog, I’d recommend you do the same.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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