Wednesday, August 22, 2007

help needed in a book store

While traveling recently I was of course delayed in the airport. (See worse airline summer since 2000 - courtesy NEWSDAY). I wandered into the book store as did thousands of others that day. When I walked in to the book store inside the terminal, the choices were daunting to say the least. At that same moment I heard 2 ladies speaking to each other – they were *saying* the same thing I was* thinking.* They were saying things like “I wonder if this book is good?”, “Do you think I would like this one?” Besides a few metrics like the NYT Best Seller List, Oprah's Book Club List or seasonal selections made by staff there was really no way for these ladies to put the myriad of titles in any general or personal context while in the store. The only real systematic help comes from the store’s section labels that tell you what section you’re looking at. Hearing these ladies trying to make sense out of the thousand of choices staring back at them made me think of our mission here at Outbrain.

For the sake of comparison if you think of online articles like the books in the bookstore, we are working feverishly to help you sort through the myriad of online choices presented to you daily to find and float the good stuff that you will like. Going back to the ladies in the book store, just picture how different their experience would have been if there was a widely used rating system on books. Think what their experience would be if the books carried personal ratings that helped them find books that matched their personal preferences. This has been deployed online and with good success at sites like but that still strands millions of book buyers who are in the aisles every day. I know that this game of hunting for a good book is part of the brick and mortar experience, but as the younger generations keep coming up, my feeling is that burning time hunting for a good book will not be as acceptable.

Although I couldn’t help the ladies in the bookstore or myself for that matter, I do take great pride in knowing that I am helping to build out the plumbing for an online rating system that shows what the crowd thinks of an article - before your read it - and even better - how you may like it from a personal perspective. I guess the bottom line here is that you may still have to spend more time in the aisles looking for a good book, but hopefully we can save you some time online by finding the good stuff for you.

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