Just to recap, back in April this year, details slowly started to emerge around a new video-based startup called Planet Daily Networks, backed by an impressive list of people which included Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer and its former CEO Eric Hippeau.
Nabbing a $5m Series A funding round, details around the company were rather scant at first, but what was known was that it was planning on bringing TV-style news to the Web. Then in September this year, full details came to light, with the company switching its name to NowThis News, and announcing a partnership with Buzzfeed. As Betabeat put it at the time, the move essentially positioned the company’s content to “go viral like chickenpox in Mrs. Henderson’s kindergarten class.”
It’s difficult to ignore the assembled team for this latest venture, which also includes Katherine Zaleski who left the Washington Post in May to become Managing Editor. Then, former ABC News Digital executive producer Ed O’Keefe joined as Editor-in-Chief, while ex-CNN man Eason Jordan jumped on board as general manager.
So…why NowThis News? Ken Lerer previously noted:
“We’re creating NowThis News to meet straight on the inevitable and rapid changes happening in news consumption: digital, mobile, social and video – that’s what NowThis News is about.”
It’s essentially an attempt to create a video news network for the 21st century, switched on digital generation.
Sure, sure…but what does it look like?
NowThis News has seemingly been built around two underlying tenets – mobile and social. There won’t be a dedicated website from what we can tell, merely a mobile app and its dedicated BuzzFeed channel, which will help with the sharing of its content across the social sphere.
What we’re talking about with NowThis News isn’t hours of streaming content – not at launch, at least. Enough content has been included in the iOS app to lure folk on board in the first instance, after which it will seemingly include a few new reports each day.
In my initial tests, the video worked pretty well, though on the odd occasion only the audio seemed to work…as you can see in the screenshot on the left, no video displayed but the audio did stream, perfectly.
Also, it’s worth noting that a key issue for any content-based startup, particularly a news one, is ensuring fresh content is included on all channels.
A quick peek in the tech section here, for example, revealed one of the stories featuring near the top was Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile leap from space, which happened almost a month ago. The top story, however, was the hacking of NBC (and others), which was a bit more recent, so hopefully we’ll see fresh content posted to each of its channels moving forward, now that its app is live.
Once you click on a video, you can watch in portrait mode or swivel your handset to watch in landscape:
While this is our first glimpse at what to expect from its core mobile offering, NowThis News has been available through its dedicated BuzzFeed channel for around a month, dishing up interesting nuggets such as this. Its BuzzFeed channel only retains two weeks worth of stories:
This launch is consistent with the general shift towards digital video from many of the more traditional news outlets. Just two weeks ago, Guardian News Media tapped Rightster to launch Guardian Select Video, a syndication portal to monetize digital video. And the Wall Street Journal is placing a bigger focus on the moving image too – back in May it saw 19.7m video streams, a three-fold increase since the start of the year.
This can, in part, be accounted for by the expansion of its WSJ Live service to cover more platforms, including the iPad, Apple TV, Roku and Samsung Smart TV, though new programming and a growing focus on producing live shows from London and Hong Kong also helped explain this increase. It later rolled out a brand new WSJ portal too, as it gears up to position itself as a broader media content provider, beyond print.
Furthermore, The New York Times recently relaunched a larger online video player, while the Telegraph Media Group was one of the first customers brought on board for the AP’s online video hub and the Huffington Post’s HuffPo Live service is going from strength to strength.
As a standalone video news service, NowThis News will have its work cut out, but flush with cash and with an impressive roster of key hires, it stands more than a fighting chance.
Feature image Credit – Thinkstock