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Trying out Zemanta

Why you don't have to ask permissionImage by karindalziel via FlickrI noticed a little icon popping up in a couple of RSS feeds yesterday (Specifically, Alfred Hermida’s Reportr.net), and started looking into the product behind the icon. It’s an interesting plug-in that may help make blogging a little easier: Zemanta.

The simple explanation is that Zemanta follows your typing and suggests related content – photos, links, and articles – based on what you write. You install Zemanta as a Firefox extension, and it shows up as a pane in your blogging screen. Every 300 characters, it refreshes with content that it thinks might be related. The photos displayed are Creative Commons licensed, so you don’t have to worry about copyright problems, and the articles (according to the company) are indexed from 300 internet information outlets (including wikipedia).

Below is an example of the “related articles” section that I created by clicking on the suggestions in the panel. As I’m typing, the photos in the gallery aren’t nearly as appealing as the article references.

To put this into an example for a college media outlet, let’s say you’re writing about the 21st Century G.I. Bill which has 57 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate, but Republican presidential candidate John McCain won’t sign on to because he says it will encourage people to leave the armed forces and better themselves educationally. While you’re typing, Zemanta pulls up related stories that you can place into the blog post. Again, check below (story from thinkprogress.org about the G.I. Bill).

A word of caution: As with any content you pull from the web, you want to be sure about your sources. You’ll probably want to visit the linked references before placing them into your blog post. I don’t think Zemanta will replace a more robust Internet search for related content (at least not yet), but it does offer an added tool to provide context to content.

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