Paul Berry is famous in tech and media circles as the brains behind The Huffington Post's incredible success with social media and search engine optimization. Today he is taking the wraps off RebelMouse, a social publishing platform that hopes to replicate that success on an individual level. "People are getting very good at Twitter and Facebook, but they are embarrassed about their personal websites," said Berry, when we visited him recently at Soho Labs. "RebelMouse takes all the content from your social streams, and transforms it into a dynamic homepage."
Users sign up for RebelMouse and connect it to their Twitter and Facebook. Berry says more social streams, like Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest will be added down the line. The service generates a landing page — here is mine — that pulls all the photos, text and links from these feeds. The page updates with each new Twitter message or Facebook status. But users can also pin their best work in the center, rearrange or remove items, and expand on Twitter's 140 characters with more thoughts.
"We'll let people hack the CMS, but I don't want this to get out of control ugly like Myspace."
"We are trying to build something that provides instant gratification with no expertise, but still has a lot of depth if you're interested," says Berry. Users can see analytics on each item and, just like he did for editors at the Huffington Post, Berry has built a system that alerts them when a certain post performs better on social media than their average or is picked up by an influencer who really expands their reach. "Hopefully we can teach anyone to get better at creating those hits."
The site suffers right now from a layout that looks very much like Pinterest, but Berry says there will be numerous themes available and developers can go in and tweak the look of the HTML themselves, with limits. "We'll let people hack the CMS, but I don't want this to get out of control ugly like Myspace," said Berry. The basic landing page on RebelMouse is free and the company plans to charge a small fee, perhaps around $3, to bring this kind of functionality to anyone's homepage. It will charge more to do the same for corporate websites and blogs.
This is the first product from Soho Labs, which is run by Berry and backed by Lerer Ventures. The space reunites the early team from The Huffington Post — Berry, Ken Lerer, Eric Hippeau and Jonah Peretti — to incubate and experiment with early stage startups. "The main thing is, it has to be fun. We're trying to keep things loose and creative, nothing cookie cutter because it seems like a good business opportunity," said Berry. "And if we stumble on an idea that just might be the next Twitter, we'll drop everything else and focus on that."