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Apture/Zemanta: Battle of the SmartLinkers

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Recently, I stumbled upon Zemanta, a service that instantly integrates tags, links, pictures and more in your blog post. More precisely, I was reading a post of Fred Wilson in my reader, and saw those “related posts” links at the end of the article. In less than 5 minutes, Zemanta was running on my Firefox. As soon as I started using it, I realized that the app was doing the work I was expecting Apture to do, except automatically: links to Wikipedia, Crunchbase, and so forth. So for those of you who haven’t decided yet on which provider to go for, I’ll compare the two services for you:

Zemanta: Good

Zemanta automates a lot of the painful side-works of blogging: tagging and linking. The engine cannot guess if you want to link to a specific url, but it will do the basic work of linking to the Apple (see) website if you wrote Apple somewhere on your blog. The automatic tagging is a blessing. It’s not 100% what I would tag, but it does the job, and if you happen to have several blogs where you blog in a somehow semi-automatic way, Zemanta is a life-saver.

The suggested picture is a nice feature; it helps when you were not planning on inserting one. The related posts at the end of your article are also an amazing addition to your content (again, if your blog provider is not already offering that feature). Instead of being a closure, the end of your article leads to more browsing and discovery. Cool!

Zemanta works on Blogger.

By creating a Zemanta profile, Zemanta will also consider your network of friends (from facebook, Mybloglog, Twitter) and suggest their content in your automatic linking process. You can also add your Amazon affiliate number, and if someone clicks on an Amazon link, you get the $$.

Apture: good

Apture is focused on providing a new type of visual browsing experience on the Web. Therefore, in a lot of ways, it can’t be compared to Zemanta. When visitors click on your Apture links, a pop up window displays the content of the link. This way, visitors don’t navigate away from your page. To add an Apture link, double click on the word you wish to hyperlink, and the link suggestions are way richer than Zemanta: Videos (from several video providers), maps, articles from newspapers, IMDB. You can link to any kind of media online, and again it will appear in a pop up window.

The media files can also be integrated directly into the post thanks to a wicked tool where you just point at a place in your post between two paragraphs, and the app creates a space there to insert the media.

Zemanta: bad

With Zemanta, there is no undo list: Say I click to link to the Twitter homepage. Done. Say I want to undo this: I have to sort through my text (in edit HTML mode) and manually erase the link. The picture will only show on the top corner (right/left), and it seems like you can’t add more than one, so in a long post like this one, you can’t rely on Zemanta for more eye-candy in this ocean of text.

Since it is a firefox add-on, its design can conflict with other add-ons or scripts (like the large window post editor for Blogger).

Apture: bad

The major problem with Apture is that links are loaded in a layer that sits on top of your site. If someone visits your site, Apture takes up a little bandwidth to load its links, but most importantly, all of the links and additions you made through Apture do not follow in your blog’s RSS feed. Recently, I used the Apture video insertion tool to specify the start and stop time of the video. I had not thought of the fact that my RSS readers wouldn’t see the video, since its insertion was programmed in the Apture layer of my post.

The obvious other problem is that once you hit publish in your blog’s editor, you now have to view your post on your blog, hit ctrl E, sign in to Apture, and create all the links. It adds time to your editing effort, and there is this awkward moment for people who visit your post right after you published it, but before you had time to add the links. I am pretty sure that the automated linking for Apture is coming up, as larger publishers like the Washington Post use Apture, and I doubt that they have monkeys manually creating the links for them.

Neither good nor bad

The two companies are at a young stage in their development, and I expect this post to be outdated in less than 2 months. However, I like comparing those two companies, as they represent two different smartlinking paradigms for bloggers.

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