Weblogs Inc. has come together again to build their ideal blogging software and raise a new network of blogs to challenge top sites in personal electronics, eco-awareness and other niches yet to be announced. Calling themselves Crowd Fusion, the company is lead by Weblogs Inc. co-founder Brian Alvey and has raised $3 million in venture capital from investors like Netscape and Ning co-founder Marc Andreeson and Ross Levinsohn, one of the key players in the Fox acquisition of MySpace.A team of leading bloggers from the early days of AOL-acquired
The company's first site launched this week and we got a look at the blog software powering it - both are beautiful.
Called Obsessable, Crowd Fusion's first site focuses on personal electronics. Features Editor (and former Producer at AOL's Engadget) Barb Dybwad says the site "covers personal technology and consumer electronics from the point of view of experts writing for people who may not be. This is consumer tech without the snark, where you don't have to be a member of the techier-than-thou club to be a part of the community."
Obsessable is just the first of a large number of big sites the company aims at launching. November will see a TreeHugger competitor in the eco market and as many as 7 other verticals will be tackled in the next year. All the sites will have a heavy database component to them, as Obsessable does with its product Comparator. The company's aim is to be bigger than existing blog market leaders by being more accessible and leveraging super-efficient blogging software to publish more content faster.
The Blogging Platform
The Crowd Fusion blogging platform was built by CEO Brian Alvey and CTO Craig Wood. It is the foundation of the company. Alvey was Jason Calacanis's less obnoxious co-founder at Weblogs. He built the BlogSmith platform that now powers AOL properties including gossip mega-site TMZ, Engadget and many others. With Crowd Fusion, Alvey and team have tried to take the lessons they've learned as some of the most experienced high-scale blog publishers on the web and build an even better publishing system.
What's so special about it? The system has a built-in RSS reader that team leaders seed with subscriptions (writers can add more at will), it's easy to push related links from other blogs out onto the published site and the system allows for the management of multiple responsibilities for posts like finding and sizing images, copy editing and more. Obsessable says it is aggregating about 1,000 topical links each day from around the web. It's all pretty involved but we couldn't help but be jealous of the publishing interface.
The company has 12 people working in Corporate and Tech departments and so far has around 10 freelance writers covering gadget news on Obsessable. It describes itself as "a new web publishing platform, built to solve the pain points of publishers at scale." That platform will not be available for licensing for some time.
Will a heavy duty publishing system help this new company challenge some of the biggest blogs on the web? The team involved certainly improves the odds.
Images of the Crowd Fusion publishing tool, click for full-size versions and continue below for more.
In addition to successful and well connected backers, Crowd Fusion is made up of a real dream-team of blogging industry trailblazers. Joining founding CEO Alvey, the Chief Operating Officer from Weblogs Inc. Judith Meskill is COO of the new company after under a year at Johnson&Johnson's site BabyCenter. Meskill knows how to build up blogs fast and orchestrate a large number of freelance writers. She's been working on Crowd Fusion since the beginning of the year.
CTO Craig Wood is a Search Engine Optimization specialist from fast-growing firm Did-it, a friend of Alvey's for 20 years and a former member of the BlogSmith team. CMO Steve Friedman worked on advertising at Weblogs Inc. and will be an essential asset to the team as good ad sales is much easier said than done.
The team member that really raised our eyebrows the most was Barb Dybwad, Obsessable's Features Editor, past Producer at Engadget and key player in the launch of several of AOL's biggest gaming sites. Dybwad's departure from AOL was a major loss for the company. A widely admired, long-term member of the tech blogosphere, Dybwad was highly sought after by top blogs for years. That she didn't leave AOL until the old team could get back together again is telling.
Crowd Fusion brings together a powerful cast with the publishing technology they've long made plans for. A time of looming economic crisis may not be ideal to launch a blog network, but incumbent leaders in topical online publishing certainly have some new competition to watch out for.