Jason Calacanis is back with a new news app called Inside. It’s out for iOS and Blackberry with an Android version on the way. There’s also a mobile web version.
Calacanis talks about the project as well as the demise of his previous venture Mahalo in this interview with Re/code:
Mahalo’s content is still on the web, but it’s sunsetting, and will no longer be invested in. Google, of course, is to be thanked for that. After Google rolled out its Panda update in 2011, Mahalo got hit hard, and the company had to reduce its staff by 10%.
Calacanis told us at the time, “All we can do is put our heads down and continue to make better and better content. If we do our job I’m certain the algorithm will treat us fairly in the long-term.”
The strategy turned to ramping up video production efforts.
Now in the above interview, he says, it wasn’t worth it to continue to invest in because they’re “at the mercy of Google’s algorithm or YouTube’s revenue split.”
The same investors and team from Mahalo are behind Inside.
“No need to raise money,” Calacanis says. “Mahalo made a lot of money, actually, before Google de-indexed us, and really beat us up with their Google search update. But we have plenty of money left, so as an entrepreneur, having great success with Mahalo then a really bad turn of events, we were left with still making millions of dollars, still having a great team, and decided to create a new product.”
“I don’t hate Google. I’m very frustrated with Google,” he says. “I would be honest. I think they’re good people. I just don’t think they know how to treat partners well.”
What Inside does is summarize news stories in 300 characters or less.
“It has a mission of creating the world’s best news service,” Calcanis says. “We want to make the best news product in the world.”
Inside seems like a Google-proof concept. In fact, in kind of takes a page out of Google’s own playbook – summaries of content with links to the original.
Yes, it’s a news aggregator, but it is an interesting take on the concept.
“We create a new atomic unit of content,” he explains. “It’s called an update. We have humans writing 1,000 updates a day.”
These people, he says, find the best original journalism, and then they summarize it in 40 words – 300 characters – which is exactly how much fits on one smartphone screen,” he explains. “The idea is that you can read an update with no linkbaiting, slideshows, listicles, etc. It’s just ‘here’s what happened.'”
This makes users five or six times more efficient if they just read the updates, he says, as opposed to fighting through linkbaiting headlines and whatnot.
According to Calacanis, Inside always links to the best journalism.
OK, so let’s not sugarcoat it. It’s basically people just rewriting the news in short summaries and linking out. But he makes a pretty good point about the linkbaiting, slideshows, etc. There is probably an audience for an app that strips out all the “nonsense” and reduces the friction between seeing a headline and actually seeing the need-to-know information.
It will be interesting to watch the media industry reaction to this one. My guess is that it won’t be incredibly favorable. On whether or not users will have to bother to click the source links, Calacanis says, “Maybe, maybe not…you’ll drill down into the ones you’re most interested in hearing more.”
He says in many cases (specifically giving the Quentin Tarantino script leak story as an example) they won’t be able to give you the full story in 300 characters, and this will lead to people clicking the links, even if not in all cases. That means more traffic for the original articles, right? Unfortunately, publishers haven’t always bought into that justification. Ask Google.
Image via Inside