Inside Calacanis' latest Inside
It has been a little less than two decades since Jason Calacanis, former C.E.O. and founder of Weblogs, Inc., LAUNCH, Inside.com and Mahalo covered the dot-com boom for his publication, The Silicon Alley Reporter. Now, with endless studies and reports predicting a surge in the use of mobile devices by news consumers, Calacanis is capitalizing on another shift in digital media. The entrepreneur and investor has breathed new life into Inside.com and launched Inside, a mobile-first news application.
But you won't be able to access the application on your Androids just yet. Instead, Inside will be available first on the open web (with a fully functioning HTML version), iPhone and Blackberry devices. Blackberry has made a minority investment in the application. And upon previewing what Calacanis had planned for Inside, Blackberry asked that it be made available for their platform immediately.
As for the major investors in Calacanis' new app: Elon Musk, News Corp., CBS, Mark Cuban, Fred Wilson, Mark Pincus and Sequoia Capital, all of whom invested in Mahalo, are bankrolling this new venture as well.
The application, which has been in the works for eight months, delivers 1,000 news "updates" a day, which amounts to a little under one news update per minute. It's an alternative remedy to the common problem of how to keep up with the news.
That problem has newly fixated entrepreneurs, to judge from Anthony DeRosa's Circa and Yahoo's News Digest. Gabriel Snyder, former editor of The Wire who was recruited to lead the content side of the business as chief content officer, told Capital that Inside is taking a different road.
"It's two different conclusions for the same problem of how to keep up with the news," Snyder said. "There's no reason it can't be mutually exclusive. The same people who want the top nine most important things delivered to them twice a day aren't always the same people who want a constant feed of it."
Users can slide vertically from update to update which are each presented as human-curated "cards."
Each card has a 300-character, 40-word limit and must include 10 facts from the article and an embedded headline. The cards link back to the direct sources and can be shared via connected social platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Additionally, each update is tagged by topic which users can slide through horizontally. As they peruse the topics, users can click on a thumbs up or thumbs down icon which indicate to the application's algorithm that they want more or fewer of that kind of update. With minimal input, Snyder said, users can teach Inside to bring them news that they are interested in. He hopes it will be the Pandora of news applications.
And while Snyder said Inside is not in the business of "coming up with news stories or rewriting stories," and will predominantly focus on linking users to what they discern as quality reporting, he and his distributed team of mostly part-time writers will be venturing into live coverage of events. Inside launches with a staff of 15 of whom only two focus on editorial.
Snyder said that Inside took a lot from Twitter's function as a news feed, but they want to improve upon it. In fact, Twitter's news function is only as good as who you follow, and finding enough relevant sources to follow takes a lot of time and effort, Snyder said.
"Twitter has the best mobile news experience," Snyder said. "It's the Google reader of mobile...We want to make it usable for [the media]."
The current climate of mobile usage in media presents the perfect opportunity for a mobile-first venture, Snyder said.
"A lot of publishers are looking at the 50 percent majority mobile user line," he said. "The user base is going to be largely on mobile. There's a value in not only trying old forms on mobile but trying new forms that can thrive in the mobile space, and now there's an opportunity to start from that."
Even more than the important shift to mobile, the application comes at a time when many organizations are trying to tackle the huge issue of balancing technology and quality editorial, Snyder said.
"There's a part of me that hopes this can be a platform to reward good journalism," he said. "There's a lot of crud out there that's really difficult to wade through. There are really good producers with original ideas and information out there. We want this to be a promotion for that quality journalism and make it easier to find."
And among the go-to sources for that quality journalism that Snyder will be looking to is none other than The Wire, the Atlantic Media-owned publication that he joined in 2011 and was editor-in-chief of until early January.
Though the Inside team has focused on creating and refining the technology, Snyder said when they are ready to monetize they will likely be using a sponsored post model in line with Twitter and Facebook's.
As for why Calacanis chose to stick with the Inside.com domain, Snyder said, "Inside is a great domain because [the application] is going to be live on the web, there's an instant landing page. It's just a really powerful name. The site has been passed through a lot of people's hands, so we're not afraid that the brand reputation will interfere with ours."
To pay homage to the legacy of the domain, Inside's new logo incorporates the original Inside's signature square brackets.
Visit the web version here: www.inside.com/all