Betaworks-Backed Puts a More Social Spin on News Medium

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put in a lot of work, build your network, and prune it over time,” Levine says. Furthermore, he says while Twitter can help call attention to content, that platform was not specifically tailored for discovering news.

Levine says he and the rest of’s team of six developed the company’s platform harnessing their experiences as power users of Twitter trying to sort through the social morass. Tools such as Tweetdeck let users organize who they follow in lists, but Levine says does not try to be all things to all users as some other mediums attempt to do. His platform treats news as social objects much the way photos on Instagram become topics for conversation., he says, aims for more personal conversations about news stories. “You’ll never have a network on Twitter or Facebook that is designed from the ground up for the conversation around news,” Levine says. Though these social networks are dabbling with groups and filters to help organize connections and consume information, he believes users would instead prefer new platforms entirely focused on the discussion of news.

Levine says takes a different approach to making news more social compared with rivals in this segment such as Flipboard and Pulse, which both offer mobile reading apps for news and magazines. Such rivals, he says, generate revenue on traditional advertising and news consumption models primarily based on topical categories. He believes that model will become less relevant in the future as readers discover news increasingly through social recommendations. is still searching for a business model to monetize the platform, Levine says.

Spun out last August from bitly, has its roots in the news industry. Michael Young,’s chief technology officer, led the team that built the prototype in The New York Times‘s research and development lab. The prototype was acquired and incubated within bitly, another Betaworks-backed company, in late 2010. Levine joined during the incubation at bitly. He was previously entrepreneur in residence at Betaworks, strategic development analyst at the, and was in investment banking.

Though has no immediate plans to develop an Android version of its app, Levine says a Web-based platform is in the works. He says the platform will likely evolve to incorporate both computer-driven algorithms and living curators to recommend news stories to users. Even with its pedigree, Levine says does face a difficult challenge disrupting the traditional models for consuming news. However he says the backing from Betaworks gives this startup the leeway to explore this approach to connect readers with news they want to see. “It’s going to be really hard, to be honest,” he says. “We’re making a long-term bet.”

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