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Meebo: We're making bank

Real-time conversation aggregator has ad model that works, traffic to back it up.

I got an impenetrable pitch from Meebo Monday about some new features in the company's "Community IM" program that we covered in October. The note said, "Content sites interested in increasing the volume of content sharing, but without their own social graph, can use the multi-network IM feature to expand their reach and drive social interactions."

Following up -- because I do love a puzzle and I remain curious about Meebo's business -- I learned that Meebo is expanding its chat product that sites like CafeMom are using with a few features that link those users into the broader Meebo network and into new Meebo features. And also that Meebo's making money, which I never expected.

Features first: Meebo has had a third-party embeddable (and free) chat product that Web sites can use to give their readers the capability to chat with each other in real time. It works much like Facebook chat, and looks much the same as well. One new feature lets users connect a site-specific chat service into their main Meebo account, which then can connect them to friends from other sites and services.

Meebo adds chat and sharing functions (outlined in orange) to sites like CafeMom. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

So, if I'm on CafeMom, the chat function will show me all my users on Yahoo IM and AIM, and let me publish to my Twitter and Facebook accounts -- all services that Meebo connects to. Another new feature makes it very easy to share Web pages with my Meebo contacts. These additions thus make it easy, and make me more likely, to share a page on the site I'm on with my larger community.

Meebo's Community IM customers like this, since it adds to the viral spread of their content.

As to the revenues, Meebo is claiming that on the main site, its ad banners are getting a 1 percent click-through and that the interactive ads that pop up from the banners have a hard-to-believe minute-and-a-half interaction time, compared to the 0.2 percent / 15-second metrics from standard ad banners (data from Meebo). User dwell time on Meebo is high because the value on the site comes from sticking around on it. Meebo is a real-time social and instant-messaging app. You don't get much out of it if you just check in and leave.

Based on this, Meebo charging relatively high advertising rates, from $8 to $12.50 cost-per-thousand. And with traffic to Meebo growing on both on the main site and partner sites, revenue is climbing. I'm taking this on faith, mind you, since publicly-available reports differ on Meebo's traffic, but it's highly plausible.

Meebo will soon be goosing its Community IM product by doing two things: It will ad small advertisements to the embedded chat function, and it will share ad revenues with sites that use the feature. Sites will also be able to buy their own ads on the chat service that will appear in the chat window. These new advertising products roll out later this month.