UPDATED 14:06 EDT / JANUARY 17 2011

Catching Up with Clearspring – New Team, New Year, New Goals for the Social Web

A new year always brings new excitement around upcoming opportunities—twelve new months of blank canvas coupled with a fresh outlook could be a recipe for success (or at least a success-oriented attitude, and we all know that’s more than half the battle).  For Hooman Radfar, 2011 couldn’t be looking any brighter.

His company, Clearspring, has had quite a ride in 2010, with a great deal of infrastructure development serving as preparation for these next twelve months.  Ramping up efforts around their earlier acquisition AddThis, Clearspring has effectively survived the few tumbles the online industry has taken, weathering the storms since launching nearly six years ago.

You may recall the latest addition to Clearspring’s team, Greg Cypes.  They brought him in from AOL, and even created a new role for him—product development.  It’s a big indication as to where Clearspring is headed in the coming months, building out the services it provides to publishers and advertisers.

“A lot has changed over the last year,” Radfar updates me on a call last week.  “We went from six hundred million uniques to one billion.  We grew our footprint out to over seven million unique domains.  From an infrastructure perspective, our big push this year is to take tech on the ad side, sorting people into audiences, and bring back that data to the publishers to create new features.  We have a unique view of the web.”

That specialized view of the web centers around Clearspring’s sharing mechanisms and the ability to process massive amounts of data in real-time, which intrinsically look at a site’s user activity, even beyond the immediate tweet, bookmark or Facebook “Like.”  Being able to look ahead of these first-round sharing outlets, Clearspring is able to extend its view past social media, across the web as a whole.  As popular as social media is right now, it’s only a chunk of the actual web activity that really takes place on a daily basis.

One of social media’s main attractions for advertisers is its centralized metrics around an individual, group, location or event.  It’s a significant factor in Facebook’s $50 billion valuation, as business structures leak into these known web forums.  Developing metrics around this activity has been a goal of many companies, across a number of industries, from advertising to politics.  Scaling beyond an individual’s “social” graph is the next iteration web businesses are preparing to take on.

We’re already seeing hints of this, with metrics and research finding new ways to compound data, developing audience pools for targeted marketing.  That’s certainly something Clearspring is developing, having launched an analytics tool (based on AddThis) last year.  Companies like Infochimps, Criteo and VisualDNA are carving their own niches for this growing industry, repurposing data for specific areas of interest.

For Clearspring, the future is all about finding ways to tap into the data that’s taking place on the web, without requiring any additional action from the user.  It’s been a major area of focus ever since incorporating AddThis into its primary infrastructure and product line-up.

“Understanding that 80% of people have lean-back behavior is an important concept for us,” Radfar continues. “People are looking to the web to do more, while doing less.”  Paradoxical in nature, Radfar and his team understand that tapping into this 80% will only widen their unique view of the web.


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