The result is that as the information we receive gets more commoditized, so, too, are the platforms from which we receive that information.
One promising startup, however, sees the future of mobile news consumption not in the devices in our pockets, but rather sees that future through a pair of rose-colored glasses — Google Glass(es), to be exact.
I recently sat down with Adriano Farano, CEO and founder of Watchup, one of the early developers of news aggregation apps for Glass, to learn more about the vision he and his Menlo Park, Calif.-based team have to bring video journalism to every screen. (Farano has also been a contributor to Idea Lab, writing first person accounts of his startup experience.)
Hello, Adriano, thanks for joining me. So, tell me about Watchup.
Farano: Well, you hit the nail on the head. Watchup’s vision is to bring the power of video journalism to every emerging screen. We started with an iPad app that lets you watch your daily newscast. And we recently launched the private beta of Watchup for Glass, which offers the first-ever multichannel news experience for wearable devices.
Watchup is one of the first to develop for Google Glass in the news space. Tell me about that?
Farano: We believe in a few years that taking a phone out of your pocket, selecting an app and waiting for the content to load is going to be seen as totally outdated. Instead, we’ll be able to consume content in a totally immediate way. And it’s going to happen right before our eyes. Glass has started making this possible, and we wanted to be the first to deliver value in this space by offering a multichannel news experience.
What problem are you solving?
Farano: People are scanning the news via social networks in a very superficial way. But we still need a privileged time of the day to go deeper into the news that is happening around us. Watchup lets you discover all the best news videos in the shortest amount of time.
How does the product work?
Farano: We have designed the app around the idea of “lasagna design,” meaning that several layers of content are displayed in a way that offers several consumption modes. You can just watch the news and lay back; you can reorder your queue and browse for more content; or you can be more proactive and read an article all while watching a video.
So what got you excited about this space?
Farano: I still remember the first newscast I watched with my parents when I was 9. The Berlin Wall was falling down and I could feel the power of video journalism. With Watchup we want to recreate the magic of watching the news by reinventing that experience. Coincidentally, the Apple tablet was launched the year I came to Stanford to do research on new ways to consume news in the 21st century as a Knight Fellow.
Who else is doing what you do?
Farano: There are many news readers. But they all require a lot of work from the user. Watchup is a one-tap app: Turn it on and your newscast will play continuously! Watchup users can scroll through headlines, watch videos, see photographs, and get article summaries while going about their daily life. The app features content from quality news sources such as the Associated Press, Reuters, PBS Newshour, the Wall Street Journal, and Euronews.
How do you do it differently?
Farano: Our proprietary technology learns from what you watch, but we also feed you with serendipitous discoveries. We also offer a patent pending “watch and read” interface that lets you watch a video all while reading related articles. It’s two screens for the price of one!
Who is your customer? How will you acquire them? How will you keep them?
Farano: Our vision is to do for news what Netflix and Hulu have done to movies and TV series. That means that we’re building a category-defining product for watching the news on every emerging screen for every person who’s interested in what’s happening in the world.
How will you make money?
Farano: We are already experimenting with video advertising though our partnership with Univision. Once we have learned from that we will probably open our monetization program to other partners.
What is your biggest risk?
Farano: Not thinking big enough!
What makes you think you will be successful?
Farano: We believe the key is to listen to our users and design a delightful experience that can offer amazing value. We are the only video app that has been constantly featured on the iPad Appstore since February. We also won the Knight News Challenge from an applicant pool of over 1,000. Not to mention so far our users love what we do.
How comfortable are you with failure?
Farano: If I had to choose, I prefer success. But small and quick failures are the best way to succeed in a venture.
So how will you measure success?
Farano: We want to fundamentally change the way people watch the news by providing more insights, depth and ease to use on every emerging screens. This is a hard task but one that is worth fighting for.
And what happens when Google decides to do what you’re doing?
Farano: We will make the product better than theirs!
Who is on your team?
Farano: In addition to myself, there’s Jonathan Lundell, one of the main contributors to the web2py project, a successful Python framework. We also have amazing designers, Google Glass developers, and just a great all-round team of people who are passionate and love what they’re doing.
And I can tell you love what you’re doing, too. So what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Farano: Twitter is great @farano.
As co-founder of an award-winning internet startup (Stroome), a former development executive (DreamWorks, VH1, HBO), independent producer (Blaze Television), and advertising/marketing executive (Adworks), Tom Grasty currently resides at the junction where media and technology collide as the principal at The Grasty Group, a consulting firm specializing in early-stage startups in the content creation space.