Counterparties.com arrives

By Felix Salmon
September 7, 2011
Counterparties.com launched today, and was met with great articles from Megan Garber at Nieman Journalism Lab and Jason Del Ray at AdAge, as well as many congratulatory tweets.

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Counterparties.com launched today, and was met with great articles from Megan Garber at Nieman Journalism Lab and Jason Del Rey at AdAge, as well as many congratulatory tweets. I know this because if I visit the “All Sources” page for Counterparties.com on Counterparties.com, I find a long list of people and blogs who have linked to the site today, all powered by the fabulous people at Percolate.

Percolate is a fantastic engine for this kind of thing — a pared-down, ultra-simple website which just tries to link to the best and most relevant information we can find. You show it your RSS feeds and the people you follow on Twitter; it will generate a dynamic list of stories generated by your own personal tastes. Go on, try it out: I’ve got a bunch of invites on the other side of this link.

One of the things that distinguishes Percolate from other, similar services like Summify is that Percolate itself is social: you react to stories by tagging them and adding comments for your friends to read. When I do that from the Counterparties account on Percolate, the tag automatically becomes the tag on the Counterparties website, and the comment becomes the headline you click on to get to the story.

In fact, I rarely do such things myself: the real day-to-day work on Counterparties is done by Ryan McCarthy, who was wonderfully described by Garber as the guy “playing the part of the Human in the production”. The feeds driving the Percolate engine are mine; the voice and personality of the site are Ryan’s. (He’s a genius at coming up with tags like “Hope/Change/Etc”.) There’s nothing automated about Counterparties: everything there is touched and written and placed by hand, and in fact we have a pretty steady stream of stories which don’t show up in the Percolate engine at all but which we include all the same.

A surprisingly large amount of work went into creating this pretty basic site: none of it would have been possible without Liesel Kipp organizing everything, Josh Turk designing everything, and, above all, my consecutive bosses, Keith McAllister and Chrystia Freeland. Both of them understood the idea immediately and intuitively, and managed to rustle up the funding to make it happen and hire Ryan.

Still, this is a basic site, and there’s much more to come. An email newsletter, for one thing, and also a Counterparties widget which I can embed on this blog and which can also be placed on any other page on the internet. And, eventually, some kind of advertising too. I have a dream on that front: just as Counterparties is the first mainstream media website which consists of nothing but external links, I’d love the ads to be the same. Clickable, yes, but in the sense of clickable and dynamic lists of headlines, which take you to great content rather than to the advertiser’s own site. I want to break out of the current paradigm where only idiots click on ads, and go to a place where the ads are just as useful to readers as the main content is. (If you have any interest in experimenting with that kind of model, do let me know!)

Counterparties.com is brand new, and we’re certainly making loads of mistakes — do let us know about anything you like, or dislike, or which is broken in some way. Leave a comment here, email anybody involved, or best of all use Twitter: we’re up and running there, as @counterparties, and would love you to follow us. (One question: should we tweet everything which goes up on the page, or be more selective? And another: do you still want to see daily Counterparties linkfests here on my Reuters blog, and if so, what format would you like them to take?)

As I told Del Ray, there’s nothing hugely innovative here — the idea behind Counterparties is a very obvious one, which thousands of people have had. And you’ll find more than a little of the DNA of sites like BuzzFeed and Atlantic Wire at Counterparties. If anything sets Counterparties apart from other aggregation/curation sites, it’s that it’s significantly more stripped down: we just want to send people away, and we produce no real content of our own.

But it’s also very scalable. Counterparties is built on my interests; it would be reasonably easy, now we’ve done it once, to build similar sites for health, or law, or markets, or domestic news from Canada. I don’t know how we’ll judge its success — we don’t really have any criteria on that front. But I hope that all of you will find it useful and check it out on a regular basis. There should always be some wonderful new stuff for you when you do. And we promise to try to cut down on pictures of white men talking.

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Comments
9 comments so far

That is an awesome and natural extension. Thanks, Felix, Ryan, and most of all, Reuters.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive

Super happy this is up and running!

Posted by colinjnagy | Report as abusive

Is this an ad? It sounds like one.

Posted by AlanVanneman | Report as abusive

I vote for keeping the counterparties posts that you do here, at least for a little while, most likely more narrowly curated, possibly with a link nudging us toward counterparties.com as well. Perhaps it would make sense to gradually put fewer and fewer links in the daily Reuters blogpost, with more and more insistent “more at counterparties.com” reminders.

Posted by dWj | Report as abusive

It’s terrific and congrats on the launch. As I tweeted to you, I think it could get even better if you can incorporate the best responses/discussion about these stories/landing pages, as TechMeme does at its best. A long list of identical tweets as ‘Sources’ doesn’t add a whole lot of value if they’re not also saying something, but links to smart discussion around that topic would. Maybe I’ll build that on top of the Counterparties feed (only half joking)…

Please do keep your own Counterparties – especially now that you’re adding some more commentary around it. I think you should tweet out everything, but consider creating a twitter acct for Tier One Counterparties, the more select stuff.

You didn’t comment on the name Counterparties, which I think is brilliant. A third party that’s essential to you doing business and therefore also can pose risk if it’s not itself healthy. That’s how today’s web functions for news orgs, but it’s still so rarely acknowledged in the explicit manner of this new site.

Posted by MickWeinstein | Report as abusive

Thanks for the efforts, Felix. Great stuff, in deed.

I think that it would be nice if I could have your Brew items on counterparties.com site (these are the items that you have tagged and/or commented on, I guess) as a separate RSS feed (together with your comments, of course).

By the way, is there a way to have the list of your Google Reader feeds? As an OPML file or anyhow. I’ve understood that the source for the counterparties.com content is the people you follow on Twitter plus the feeds you follow on Google Reader. The former of these is already listed on Twitter, but what are those feeds that you follow?

Thank you.

Posted by kahmet | Report as abusive

Congratulations on the site. While filled with generated content, hopefully we’ll see something of the “Felix touch” with an editorial or two.

Posted by DanPorter | Report as abusive

Thank you very much for the invite on Percolate and congratulations on your new blog. If I may give my opinion, I don’t think it would be a good idea to tweet every story at Counterparties, I would rather prefer to receive a tweet now and then with a sort of “reminder”, i.e. a great article or story. Greetings from Germany, readingfortoday.tumblr.com

Posted by andres.haz | Report as abusive

this is very exciting!

my humble 2 cents:
your blog is a great place for the one-line write-ups of old, while counterparties can be the place to expand.
ALSO: the counterparties RSS feed leaves some to be desired. the body of the post simply repeats the headline. the post itself would be ideal, but just noting the source in the body would go a long way.

best of luck. looking forward.

Posted by alexSch | Report as abusive
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