One of blogging's biggest barriers is how much work you have to do to get a post out the door. You can stick to straight text, but adding links, pictures, tags, and related stories makes it more engaging for your readers. But let's face it, doing all that on every post is time consuming. In fact, the length of time required to write a decent blog post is what spawned services like Tumblr and Twitter--the ultimate lazy man's blogging tools.
Enter Zemanta, a brilliant product for lazy or otherwise time-focused bloggers who simply don't want to spend extra time looking up related links, tracking down properly licensed photos, or coming up with tags for what they're writing. The tool plugs into all the popular blogging platforms and will scan over whatever you've written and provide a bevy of related links. These links don't just go on a dump at the end of your post though, it'll spot mentions within the post and give you the option to add a URL to the first mention from a handful of popular sites. This works for company and celebrity names; it will also pick up on simple domains like anything with a .com at the end.
Another tool that does this to a certain extent is Yahoo Shortcuts, which of last year. The big difference between Zemanta and Shortcuts is that it's not just Yahoo content--it comes from all over the Web. Zemanta COO Bostjan Spetic tells me the tool is pulling in links from a live index of 600 blogs which have been picked from multiple ranking sites, including Technorati. In addition to that listing, it's also pulling in another 400 popular news and entertainment sites like CNN.com and The New York Times.
Maybe one of Zemanta's coolest features is that it gives you freely-licensed photos you can drop into your posts (see the screenshot above). It will automatically pull them in from Flickr if they've been given the proper Creative Commons usage rights. You can sort through them and just stick them into your post. Spetic tells me he's working on deals with a few stock photo services to let bloggers grab beautiful stock photography for free. The photos will be limited in size, but bloggers are free to use them on their posts as long as they link back to the shot's product page.
This morning the company is unveiling a handful of new features including re-blogging, a feature that Spetic admits has been "borrowed" from nanoblogging service Tumblr. With it enabled, other bloggers with Zemanta installed can take your entire post and quote it on their own blog. Each post automatically comes with proper attribution linking back to the post, but they can make small changes too.
Also new is a popularity page highlighting the most linked to or mentioned content on Zemanta networked blogs. Spetic says it's not a competitor to sites like TechMeme, and instead is just a simple way to see what's getting the most chatter. Eventually, Spetic says the tracker will be spun off into different sections so that people can monitor areas of news that interest them the most. Spetic also told me it might become a tracker for other conversation mediums that will become Zemanta-enabled, like blog comments and forum posts.
For now, Zemanta works on all the major blogging platforms. There are also Firefox and IE extensions that let you get the same handy tool without having to install it on your blog. Users can also give it a spin on this demo page and get the same results. Once Zemanta is installed, users see a similar interface, but with a tighter integration into a blogging tool's existing tag and image libraries. To see the tool in action, check out the demo, or simply watch the video below.
Zemanta Blogger integration from zemanta on Vimeo.