Smaller Than Twitter

Scott Kurnit’s AdKeeper Pivots to Keep.com, Where Users ‘Follow Brands’ [UPDATED]

keepcom Scott Kurnits AdKeeper Pivots to Keep.com, Where Users Follow Brands [UPDATED]

(twitter.com/keep)

Somehow this passed us by: AdKeeper, the startup from About.com’s Scott Kurnit attempting to create a “like” button for online ads, announced a pivot a few weeks ago. In a Nov. 21 blog post titled, “Another View of AdKeeper,” Mr. Kurnit explained that the site will be relaunching at Keep.com with “a unique offering that serves the AdKeeper mission in new and exciting ways,” but did not explain the specifics.

The original idea, which earned Mr. Kurnit $43 million from investors including Spark Capital,
First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures, The New York Times and betaworks, was to create a network across the internet that would place a “keep” button on ads and allow users to store those ads for later. The company reportedly had a $100 million valuation. “The fact is, 90 percent of people have torn an ad from a magazine,” Mr. Kurnit wrote in an op-ed at All Things Digital.

We imagined users might want to keep coupons or funny videos or other kinds of content-like ads, like this Thanksgiving recipe from GE, but we weren’t very confident in the idea. (The opening line of our first post ever on AdKeeper: “You know when you see an ad on the Internet somewhere, and it’s just so awesome that you wish you could save it and look at it later? No? Uh oh.”)

Although advertisers (including some of Betabeat’s!) loved the concept at first and AdKeeper insisted users were keeping lots of ads, the reviews started coming back mixed. “I don’t necessarily see the benefit,” Adam Shlachter, digital head of global media agency MEC, told Digiday. “I haven’t seen any evidence that there’s demand for this type of functionality or that it’s really adding anything for advertisers.”

And while more than 10,000 people like AdKeeper on Facebook, the app only has 200 monthly users.

Perhaps that’s why AdKeeper is switching things up. The new product at Keep.com is apparently in stealth, but the tagline is “Follow brands. Save money. Have fun.” The Facebook account links to discounts from a seemingly random assortment of brands from Rue La La to Shoe Buy. “It won’t be long before the curtains open and you can start saving time and money on your favorite brands,” says the introductory email. “If you want your friends to do the same, please invite them to sign up. After all, it’s more fun to shop together.”

Mr. Kurnit did not immediately respond to an email request for an interview.

“Since launching AdKeeper earlier this year we’ve researched, displayed, used, digested, reviewed, sorted, organized and shared thousands of ads,” he wrote. “We realized that ads are just the tip of the iceberg. Much like marketers put ads at the top of the purchase funnel, consumers agree that ads are truly just the start of a lasting relationship with the brands in their lives.”

It sounds like Keep.com will be a more tailored approach to the kind of brand-following that happens on social media. Considering the startup teamed up with Safecount just a week before the pivot announcement in order to provide better processing for tagged ads, it sounds like the “keeping ads” idea will stick around in some form. But “bigger than Twitter“? It’s looking like not.

UPDATE: Scott Kurnit responded by email to say it’s not a pivot: “Not a new direction. An extension. Very happy with AdKeeping. AdKeeper is working well. Somehow Digiday chose to quote 4 people we have never met with who know nothing about our business. Worst ‘journalism’ I’ve ever seen. Bizarre.”

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com