Oct 152010

Brand Affinity Technologies of Irvine, Calif., a startup in the advertising and online search businesses, has come up with a bold new kind of Web search application that approaches things quite differently from the conventional list-of-links method.

In addition, BAT announced Oct. 14 that it has established an open developer platform for the new search technology and a developer network to promote the use of the beta-level app throughout the Web.

BAT, whose founders Chad and Ryan Steelberg are Google alumni, has come up with netBAT, a creative new way to search and aggregate content on the Web. NetBAT finds and presents various types of information from different sources and brings it directly to a user’s screen.

To use the free service, all the user needs to do is click on a photo anywhere on a Website that uses netBAT. NetBAT is designed to keep users on Websites longer by bringing a continuous stream of new information; all the information delivered by netBAT is free of charge to the user.

For example, when browsing the Web and coming across a photo of New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte on a netBAT-powered page, a user can simply click on the photo to bring up a menu of content choices that appear as link buttons at the bottom of the photo.

These can include links to a YouTube video of Pettitte in action, quotes from Pettitte on various topics, a list of the pitcher’s most recent Twitter updates, and a Google search, among other channels. One choice even turns the picture into an interactive jigsaw puzzle, for those who enjoy such features.

Information comes right into the picture

Each link brings up a page of information superimposed on a clear background over the photo, so the user doesn’t have to leave the page. Thus, the user gets much more information about the person in the photo than just the image and caption.

For starters, netBAT is being used only in the context of celebrities, CTO Russell Ketchum told eWEEK, but the concept certainly is not relegated to entertainment by any means.

“For users, netBAT is great, because they’re now able to tap into not just content that the publisher has provided, but liberating content [from other sources] and bringing it to bear where it’s most relevant,” Ketchum said.

“There’s lot of stuff we can do with netBAT, and from the beginning, we envisioned having an open developer network,” Ketchum said. “We’re actually bringing that to market with this beta. Developers are going to start having access, and making apps of their own, and we’ll syndicate through netBAT.”

For example, applications eventually could be written using the netBAT engine for topics such as political concepts, scientific research, retail shopping, or health care. At the moment, however, BAT is providing one anchor piece of content about a celebrity (athlete, celebrity, team, musician, etc.). Everything else will have to be added in by the developer.

“We recommend that developers create contextually relevant games, informational apps, mashups, you name it, that leverage the content featured,” a company FAQ says. “As such, the netBAT API provides data and background information on over 38,000 celebrities to populate your apps.”

The netBAT developer network is part of the netBAT Partner Portal, which is used by BAT publishing partners to monitor and assess the performance of netBAT on their Websites, Ketchum said. A new section of that portal will provide all the developer tools — including a software development kit (SDK) — needed to install and use netBAT on a Website, Ketchum said.

How to make money using netBAT

How can developers make money by distributing their application through netBAT?

“It starts by the developer uploading the app to us. We go through a process for quality control. Then it gets approved into the system,” Ketchum said.

“There are several ways for developers to make revenue, but even if the intention is not revenue, there are distribution opportunities,” Ketchum said. “We now have access to about 44 million users across leading news, sports and lifestyle sites [though previous licensing]. So one of the novel ways to use netBAT as a revenue play is that we have a function integrated with the iTunes App Store, for example.

“If your app is an e-commerce app, money generated from your app is yours alone,” Ketchum said. “If you have a paid version of your app available on iTunes, you can use netBAT to drive users to download your app using netBAT’s integration with the iTunes app store. You also can run ads inside your app.”

BAT’s original business is creating, storing and licensing celebrity-focused generic content [mostly in video and images] that can be used by smaller businesses for advertising and public relations purposes in various media — including television, print and, of course, the Web.

Because small and medium-sized businesses most often do not have the budget bandwidth to afford testimonials from well-known athletes, musicians, and movie/TV stars, they can use BAT to find a celebrity and content that fits their marketing or fund-raising scheme and license the appropriate video, photos and audio that BAT already owns.

For example, if a business is interested in an anti-smoking campaign to fit into its overall marketing plan, the business can find a celebrity message to that effect in BAT’s archives and license it for far less cost than having to deal with the celebrity and his or her agent on an individual basis.

Last August, BAT raised $20 million in Series C funding led by Miramar Venture Partners, with existing investors Newport Coast Investments, RimLight Capital, Fulcrum Venture Capital, CGI Opportunity Fund II, and Ad Pepper Media International also participating. This brings the company’s total funding to $26 million.

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