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Contextly helps writers curate related stories

Contextly helps writers curate related stories

Nicole Martinelli | June 21, 2012

If you write a lot online, you know how hard it can be to find your own stories on related subjects and link them back up to the latest news.

Contextly hopes to change that.

It's the brainchild of Ryan Singel, editor of Wired's Threat Level blog, who wanted to solve two problems: "drive-by readers" who only read one story and the frustration that many writers have when algorithms dictate related stories.

"There are lots of places for readers to find your stories now because of social media, the challenge is how to get these drive-by readers to come back," Singel said at a recent Hacks and Hackers meetup in San Francisco.

Working with a three-person team based in the U.S. and Europe, Singel created a plugin that currently works on popular blogging platform WordPress. Right now it's an invite-only beta -- more about that here -- but you can see it in action over at Wired.com, where it provides two tabs with stories, "related" and "you might like."

For writers on deadline who don't have time to curate, Contextly's "you might like" tab on Wired offers a mix of posts on similar topics and hot stories from around on the site, so it's not "generating four more stories on Steve Jobs if you've just clicked on a story about Apple," Singel said, adding that "serendipity is the key." The "related" tab leads readers to stories hand-picked by the journalist.

I took it for a spin over at Cult of Mac, another early partner, and found it solved a number of headaches. Contextly integrates seamlessly with WordPress - with a button on the editing toolbar and a "see also" section for the related stories - and it just takes a few minutes to search either your site or the web to add curated links. (Fortunately for busy bloggers, using it doesn't really require reading the detailed seven-page tutorial Singel supplies, either.)

Contextly quickly turned up stories of mine from several years back with just a few keywords - more than I can say for the site's own search engine - and the result, once saved, is displayed chronologically, too. This is great for journalists who follow stories over time and blogging teams who need to piece together the background of a story from group efforts.

You can also use the plugin to search for links beyond your site without leaving WordPress to find them -- a big time saver. Those links are visible in an "around the web" tab in the Contextly box.

As publishers push for ways to get readers to stick around and writers are more pressed for time than ever, Contextly could be just the thing.

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