LA Times and other big publications sign-in to Janrain's authentication service

A growing number of publishers want to connect with their readers’ social network accounts, according to a startup called Janrain. The Portland, Ore. company just announced some major media companies as new customers for its product, Engage, which authenticates site visitors and lets them share content using their accounts from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

The new partners include Tribune Interactive (the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun), Meredith (Better Homes and Gardens, Parents), E.W. Scripps (Knoxville News Sentinel, Venture County Star), The Dallas Morning News, and the National Geographic Society. Janrain isn’t sharing the total number of customers, but previously announced publishers include Fox News, National Public Radio, and the Bakersfield Californian.

Janrain Engage is based on OpenID, an open standard for authenticating users that’s supported by the companies mentioned above, as well as many others, including MySpace, PayPal, and Yahoo. Janrain chief executive Brian Kissel is the chair of the OpenID Foundation’s Community Board.

Kissel told me that publishers are jumping on-board as they realize it’s valuable to know who their readers are and that it’s much easier to convince them to sign in with an existing account than to create a new one. Plus, the sharing features are bringing in traffic — Kissel said that when a reader uses Janrain to share a link, on average it gets between eight and 25 clicks. Janrain is seeing interest from websites in other industries too, he said, but “media just got it the quickest.”

There are a number of other social sharing tools available for publishers, but Kissel said the biggest competitor is Facebook itself, which is moving more aggressively to help users carry their Facebook identities to other websites. Janrain has the obvious advantage of going beyond any single account, and Kissel said it also serves publishers who have trouble keeping up with all the changes in Facebook alone.

Janrain recently raised $3.25 million from DFJ Frontier, RPM Ventures, and Anthem Venture Partners.


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