Popping Out: Meebo Syndicates IM For Online Communities

meebo screenshotInstant-messaging site Meebo will launch a new service this fall syndicating IM to online community sites.

The initial group of partners signing up for Meebo's Community Instant Messaging initiative include enthusiast sites such as DanceJam, Flixster, myYearbook, MTV Networks' Addicting Games, Piczo, SparkArt, Sugar Publishing and Tagged.

Users registered on the sites would automatically have access to Meebo's one-to-one IM service and buddy lists within the online communities when they log in. The new offering also allows people to connect with members of other participating community sites and the multiple IM services for which Meebo.com serves as a hub.

Another features allows users to "pop out" the IM client from a community site into Meebo.com to maintain their presence and get status updates, even after leaving the partner site.

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"Meebo brought IM to the Web with meebo.com and now we're bringing that same functionality to the Web's largest communities," said Meebo CEO and co-founder Seth Sternberg. "Users can now IM buddies inside their favorite sites and outside them at Meebo.com."

A formal launch date for the service has not yet been set.

The community IM program is the company's latest effort to expand its reach beyond its flagship site and bolster advertising opportunities tied to its service. A year ago, the startup launched Meebo Rooms--chat rooms that could be embedded in third-party sites and supported with rich media and video advertising.

Last month, Meebo unveiled new ad units including its MediaBar, a standard leaderboard appearing at the bottom of a user's screen that expands to a 900 x 400 unit to deliver video, games, applications, news and other types of interactive content.

It also debuted SparkAds, text ads containing links to drive traffic to a brand's site from Meebo.com or Meebo Rooms. While its main site draws 10 million monthly visitors worldwide, its syndicated chat rooms expand the number of users to 35 million, according to Martin Green, Meebo's vice president of business.

ComScore estimates Meebo.com's worldwide traffic lower, at 6 million visitors in June.

The company in June also partnered with a group of application developers last month including Buddy Media, Commagere Ventures, and FrozenBear to further syndicate Meebo Rooms across social networking sites.

Brand marketers will be able to run SparkAds on the new service, which pop up periodically within IM conversations and are targeted contextually as well as according to demographic criteria such as age and gender. Clicking on the text ads opens an overlay unit that may lead to video or other content.

Entertainment, consumer electronics and retail brands have shown the strongest interest so far in Meebo's new ad programs, said Chief Revenue Officer Carter Brokaw, who recently opened the New York-based sales office for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

Advertisers to date include Sony Electronics, Samsung, Universal Pictures, footwear brand Havaianas and Lego.

Marketers have struggled with advertising on social media because of its fragmented nature and concerns about marketing alongside less predictable user-generated content. Those issues, combined with a sputtering economy, led eMarketer to trim its forecast for social network advertising to $1.4 billion from $1.6 billion this year.

Investors, however, remain optimistic. Meebo in April raised a $25 million venture round from investors led by JAFCO Ventures and including Time Warner Investments, KTB Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

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