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RealTime IT News

Pluck Pairs Big Media With Social Networking

Social media technology provider Pluck today announced that it will link the social platforms of many of its media clients' sites with social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

Pluck already supplies the social networking components that many major news and broadcast companies place on their sites, including The Washington Post, Gannett and Discovery Communications. Now, when users comment on an article or participate in an online survey, their actions will show up on their profiles on social networking sites.

Links to news articles, blogs, videos and other content users interact with will appear on their Facebook and MySpace profiles, hopefully sending those users' friends back to the news site in what Pluck describes as a "boomerang effect."

"Fundamentally, we feel pretty confident because the participants are already part of a social network and this is a natural extension of that environment," Pluck Chief Marketing Officer Ken Nicolson told InternetNews.com. "The reward for the media companies is that the affinity with a social networking site translates into more viewers."

More viewers means more ad dollars, which Nicolson said made the pitch to Pluck's media clients an easy one. Social interaction has a direct positive impact on the amount of time users spend on a page, which in turn creates hard data that media companies can (and do) use to court advertisers.

Many news companies have already incorporated social elements in their own sites. ABC News recently added a new dimension to the social side of news with its creation of the "U.S. Politics" Facebook group, where members can track ABC's political reporters and vote on the issues that the presidential candidates are debating.

Sending the actions users take on the social components of media sites directly to Facebook and MySpace profiles now becomes another new way for traditional media properties to engage the younger audience increasingly looking to the Web for their news.

The genesis of the project dates back to a brainstorm session Pluck had about six weeks ago with its media clients wrestling with how to better connect with the hundreds of millions of people who use social networking sites. It wasn't too long after Facebook had opened its development platform allowing third parties to create their own applications, and media companies recognized an opportunity.

The linkage with Facebook will become operational in the first quarter of next year. The tools connecting the media sites to Google's Open Social network (of which MySpace is a member) will go live mid-2008. The Facebook linkage was the highest priority for the media companies, Nicolson said.

Nicolson believes that the connection between media sites and social networking sites is the natural next step for content-based sites looking to expand their reach. First media companies tried simply to attract an audience around their content. Next they tried to improve audience engagement by giving viewers the opportunity to post feedback. Now the viewer has the chance to network with other members of the community, he says.

Communities keeping an eye on the actions of their members can have a dark side, as well. Pluck's announcement comes on the heels of Facebook's controversial Beacon advertising platform, where users' purchases on third-party Web sites appear in their news feeds, and Nicolson is quick to draw a distinction.

"We're talking about [linking] one social environment to another," he said, characterizing Facebook's ad platform as "presumptive."

While the specific implementation will be up to the media sites, Nicolson said that users posting a comment or taking some other action on a news site will have the option of preventing it from appearing on their profile through a prompt asking if they'd like to share that information.

That part sounds very much like Facebook's Beacon, which has come under fire for the inconspicuous placement of its "no thanks" option which users can click to keep purchases from appearing in their news feeds.

However, using Pluck's linkage application, users will be able to permanently opt out of the action-sharing program by clicking a "never ask me again" option. MoveOn.org has recently charged Facebook with developing a permanent opt-out function for Beacon but discarding it before releasing the final version.