While the internet and its contents are more accessible now than ever before, search tools remain somewhat archaic by comparison. One company tackling the problem, Collarity, Inc. was founded in 2005 by CEO Levy Cohen as a response to typical search frustrations. Operating under the premise "Find what I need, not what I type," Collarity attempts to navigate the search maze by relying on a community-based solution.
In Mid-August, one of Collarity's clients, Fox, quietly rolled out Fox On Demand, which, for the first time, will allow users to watch Fox programs online through Fox affiliate network channels. Fox On Demand users can now discover video content from episodes using Collarity's search technology. Collarity’s community-based search system has been incorporated into Fox’s local affiliate sites so that those who search for "kitchen" on MyFoxPhilly.com, for example, will receive related articles, localized advertising, and also a thumbnail with an option to view a Hell’s Kitchen episode.
According to Rob Rustad, Collarity's director of marketing, "Everything is going to social media, and Fox wanted to reflect that region."
The services Collarity is providing to Fox are at the core of its approach. When sites like Fox license Collarity’s technology, they leverage the Collarity Compass, a filtering system that combines keywords and URLs in order to produce a series of results from like-minded communities of searchers; these communities are created by clustering people who have displayed similar interest in a certain subject area. Based on the past searches for specific information, the Collarity Compass returns the results deemed most popular and relevant by fellow community members.
For example, if you were to input the keyword "java" into a traditional search engine, the search would reap countless pages containing links to java programming, coffee, and Java Island websites. Time and patience would be lost in the quest for a relevant result. However, with Collarity, users can explore keywords that pertain to all meanings of java before actually selecting a website. Once a keyword is selected, that user has automatically "joined" a community, meaning they have self-defined interest areas vased on their activity. From that point on, a coffee enthusiast searching for "java" would automatically be more easily directed to various sites containing coffee as a keyword.
Rustad says websites have "implicit attention communities," which are created using Collarity’s services. He says they are the "primary resource for making search results more relevant." Instead of using artificial taxonomies or basing relevance on links, "Collarity relies on the anonymous behavior of a site's natural communities to re-rank search results and provide recommendations for people on the site."
Collarity believes that community-based searching will guide and optimize results and some--like Fox--are beginning to take notice. While Collarity would not reveal the number of individual consumers who have subscribed to this mode of internet navigation, there are a handful of big names throwing their support to the blossoming newcomer. Collarity has already partnered with search magnate Google, as well as Jack Myers' mediavillage.com and infoplease.com.
But perhaps the segment of the digital content economy that has the most potential for benefit from Collarity's community-based offering is online advertising. While there has been some controversy over tracking searches in order to target advertising (raising privacy concerns for some), Collarity does not track individual searches, but rather groups-together search trends per community. IP addresses are not recorded, making searches anonymous. Thus, advertising is targeted at subject matter interest, rather than at specific individuals.
According to Rustad, "Collarity forms automatic communities and advertisers can get a narrower focus on their target audience." Collarity automatically matches content and ads, and sponsored links are driven by clustered content results.
Collarity's goal is to make searches more relevant by steering away from traditional search algorithms, focusing instead on the "strength in numbers" principle. The necessity for relevance is becoming more obvious with every internet search, so it is no surprise that companies like Fox are testing new ways to leverage community to help audiences find the content they seek.