Updated Flud Platform Combines News Aggregation and Social Networking

12/15/11Follow @XconomyDET

According to Bobby Ghoshal, the future of news consumption is in finding new ways for users to interact with content and influence other users’ reading habits, and the development of online “news personalities.” Ghoshal is the co-founder and CEO of Flud, a news aggregation app that unveiled its updated platform for the iPhone and iPad earlier this month. (The Android version is set to launch in January.)

With Flud, everyone has the potential to become a news source,” Ghoshal says. “It’s all about taking consumption and merging it with social networking.”

Flud’s new platform allows news enthusiasts to create their own news profiles, recommend content to their community, discover new information and sources from friends, and to build information networks around key interests. The San Diego-based startup recently received funding from Detroit Venture Partners and Detroit-based Ludlow Ventures.

What Flud aims to create is a sort of meta aggregator, where users are curating content to create individualized aggregation sites within the larger Flud ecosystem. If that sounds daunting to a novice, Flud has also created a “hit list” of content Ghoshal and other members of the Flud team consider especially worth reading. (For example, I discovered during my interview with Ghoshal that Xconomy is on that list.)

Flud thinks of its content as having three tiers. Tier 1 belongs to the publications that are ubiquitous at news stands: Time; Cosmo; Sports Illustrated. Tier 2 is the place for niche blogs that are widely read—think TechCrunch or Perez Hilton. Tier 3 is the home of blogs that may not be household names, but that have enough of a readership to stay relevant in the market.

Tier 3 is where Ghoshal sees a big opportunity with Flud users. The new platform includes a feature that allows users to see who else is reading an article at the same time they are. (Ghoshal calls it “serendipitous news discovery.”) Ghoshal is hoping that users will be pleasantly surprised to see 20 or 30 other people reading the same cult-favorite blog they are, and that will lead them to reach out for additional content recommendations.

Other new features in the updated platform include a Flud button, which allows users to endorse high-quality content; an activity feed to track what’s trending inside a user’s news circle; the ability to push content out to Tumblr and connect to Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Instapaper, and Read It Later accounts;  and synching across devices so that a user’s “news legacy” follows them from phone to tablet and vice versa.

It was the popularization of the tablet computer, Ghoshal says, that inspired he and Matthew Ausonio to found Flud in the first place. “The tablet was intriguing, and we guessed that using them to read news would be huge,” he says.

The initial app was launched in August 2010, but Ghoshal describes those early days as being in an uphill battle with competitors. Then Apple named it as a top new app, and more accolades followed—Fast Company named the Flud app as Best UI Design of 2010. Flud received an infusion of $1 million from investors in April (90 percent came from DVP and Ludlow in Detroit, Ghoshal says) and Flud’s developers got to work on the new platform.

“We looked at the aggregation space to see where we could innovate, and we focused on using networks to tell a story about ourselves,” Ghoshal adds. “Flud is the first app in the world to give users a news personality.”

Though Flud is based in San Diego, it also has an office in the Madison Building in downtown Detroit, which will house its business development operation. Ghoshal says DVP’s Josh Linkner plays an important role in the company, helping the 10-person Flud crew not only on the business side, but on the creative side as well.

Ghoshal hopes that, in the future, an increasing number of publications will see the potential for new readership that aggregation apps such as Flud can bring.

“We want to show publications that it’s OK to give aggregators your content,” he says. “We use data to drive traffic back to a publication’s website, and we let publications keep all the money. Aggregators won’t survive without good content, so we have a deep respect for content providers.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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