News aggregator Loud3r refocuses, raises new funding

Loud3r, a startup whose technology compiles news and other online content about specific topics, attempted last year to build a network of niche news sites. That didn’t work out as hoped, but chief executive Lowell Goss says the Pasadena, Calif. company has bounced back with a business-focused offering and a new funding round of less than $1 million.

Back when Loud3r first launched, VentureBeat writer Eric Eldon was skeptical that “what the world needs is more news aggregators.” It sounds like Loud3r encountered the same questions when it tried and failed to raise a first round of venture funding last fall (which was, to be fair, a terrible time for everyone trying to raise money). Goss says that forced the company to rethink its business, and now, rather than trying to make money with its news network, Loud3r is selling its technology to other companies.

Competitors now include OneSpot, which sells news aggregation technology to publiactions like the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. But Goss says Loud3r is different because it uses semantic technology to distinguish when a similar word or phrase means different things (Robert Smith the American politician vs. Robert Smith the singer for the cure, for example), and because it isn’t just focused on news articles, or any specific type of content. Instead, it brings diverse content together into a single feed.

“For a user, if that content comes from Twitter or if it comes from Flickr, those aren’t necessarily two different things,” Goss says.

Loud3r has signed up three customers since it started selling its technology to companies at the beginning of this year, Goss adds, with two or three newspaper partnerships to be announced soon. And those customers aren’t just using Loud3r on a single site — NameMedia, for example, tested Loud3r on 75 sites and is now expanding beyond that. Name was also happy enough with the technology to provide the new funding, which is Loud3r’s first institutional round. (It previously raised $750,000 in convertible debt.)

NameMedia president Jeff Bennett says Loud3r’s technology is an obvious fit with Name’s business model, which involves buying up lots of domains and then filling them with inexpensive content. You can see examples of Loud3r-powered Name sites at artist.com and landscaping.com. Name is a private company itself, with more than $100 million in funding from Highland Capital Partners and Summit Partners, Bennett says.

So with the new direction, what will happen to Loud3r’s network of cleverly-/obnoxiously-named news sites like Found3r and Watch3r? The company will keep them around to test new technology and features. And when asked about it, Goss sounds like he hasn’t completely given up hopes of building a media empire sometime in the future …