The title of this post is inspired by a book I read as a 10 year old in 1995 by Bill Gates called “The Road Ahead.”
It was a book filled with hope about a new frontier due to the large coming shift about to be caused by the Internet.
Here we are 16 years later where another large fundamental shift is happening of even bigger proportions due to touch enabled devices.
Here’s why we believe the way we create, consume, and share media is undergoing the largest shift since the creation of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440.
Anyone can be a publisher
Publishing used to require a ton of capital and time. In today’s world, anyone with an internet connection can become a publisher. It doesn’t just mean blogging, but tools such as instragram, youtube, twitter, facebook, and more. It lets us give perspectives on a story that would not have been widely available before.
Publishing is way more than just articles in reverse chronological order
Blogging and publishing has often been about a reverse chronological list of articles. Time isn’t the deciding factor anymore, sharing and popularity is. Why should articles being shared thousands of times an article disappear off page due to a less important article?
Social is really a platform that was built for publishing
Social is a distribution channel that allows media and content to literally fly at the speed of light. One of the core philosophies of Facebook was information flow. Centuries ago it was measured in days, decades ago in hours, years ago in minutes, and today it is measured in seconds. The channels that exist due to Facebook and Twitter are the truly largest platform we have ever seen for publishing. We don’t need the paper delivery boy anymore, we have actual readers sharing and distributing content.
The new influencers
We look at the publishing market in three distinct slices. Personal publishing through Twitter or platforms of self expression like Tumblr, Large publishers such as the new york times, and most importantly a new breed of publishers – “The New Influencer”. They’re a group of individuals that are influencers on a specific topic tied to a valuable demographic. There is now a voice for every topic possible and it’s wonderful. It allows readers to engage with content specific to them, publishers to write on a topic they’re passionate about, and advertisers to target an audience that wants to hear from them. Our hypothesis is that we won’t see another large centralized news organisation ever again, but a loosely coupled group of influencers across a broad range of topics. The next Hearst or New York Times will most likely look like the fusion of a media company with the heart of a well designed software company.
Serendipity as a recommendation engine
It’s not about articles that are similar, but articles that you may also enjoy. It’s about delivering an engine for content that provides that experience of bumping unexpectedly into content you’d enjoy, the same way you might find a great new cup of coffee while exploring New York City. You didn’t expect to get there, but you are sure happy you got there.
Design Is The Key To Winning
The key to winning on the web and content is beautiful design that is reminiscent of beautiful typography and design found in print magazines. The back-end is a commodity that the user will almost never see unless things fail. With touch enabled devices, the user experience and design is something we can touch. With great design, publishers can provide engagement levels that they’ve only dreamed about.
Touch Enabled Devices Are A Truly Personal Experience
We chose the name OnSwipe because the measure of interaction between computers and humans will no longer be measured by on click, but by on swipe. It’s just you and the device with a true one foot user experience. There are no barriers in the way such as a mouse or an extra two feet. The page itself responds to your emotion and excitement. The same bond that we’ve had with paper, we can have with our computing devices. It took us a while, but the “Personal Computer”, is actually personal.
Everything is mobile
Every device is connected and always on. Phones like the iPhone are connected everywhere and the 3G version of the iPad is outselling the wifi version. Our kids will grow up laughing at the fact we wouldn’t have Internet connectivity. What does this mean? It means there is zero delay in information flow. We can find out about news as it happens with zero delay and share that outwards. It also means content can be created from anywhere in the world. That is a double sided increase in the speed of information flow.
HTML5 Over Native For Content
Apps for content are a ponzi scheme, but they’re the only way right now to achieve beautiful design on tablet devices. The NY Times has so many app users because they’re using a centuries old brand to push traffic to multiple app stores. Why should publishers spend thousands upon thousands of dollars and time resources to develop across multiple platforms? It should just happen and with their existing traffic. With HTML5 and CSS3, we can deliver the beautiful experience of native apps using a publisher’s existing traffic. It’s time for publishers to have their cake and eat it too. This isn’t a geek argument of open platforms. It’s an argument of publishers being able to control their experience.
50 billion in media spend needs to shift
Mary Meeker estimates that 50 billion dollars of traditional media spend needs to shift online. Our belief is that it’s in a holding pattern and can’t. There’s a disconnect between award winning beautiful ads found in print and tasteless spam ads that litter the web. We think touch enabled devices can let this change by providing advertising people actually enjoy with the best of the web layered on- mobile, local, social, and more. The touch enabled web can let us create ads publishers want alongside their content, advertisers get returns for, and most importantly, that users will enjoy.
The rise of New York City as a collision point for media and technology
A lot has been happening in New York City over the past couple of years. There’s a great reason why we’re basing the company here and plan to be here for quite a while. Our belief is that design is the key to winning the web and the best design talent in the world is in NYC. It’s also an urban population with a ton of density where true use cases for mobile technology can be realised first. Ron Conway briefly hit on this with his belief in the urban entrepreneur. Lastly, the world of media is in this city and now colliding with the startup ecosystem. It’s a beautiful thing as media companies will start to absorb the innovation and fusion happening in this city. No city has to lose for the other to win. A city needs to find it’s specific strength and we think NYC has the strength of sitting at that huge intersection of media+technology.
The road ahead is a long one. One we’re dedicated to journey down over the next decade to transform the way publishers and advertisers deliver content to readers just like you. To help us along the way we’ve found great partners in Spark Capital, Betaworks, TechStars NYC, and a handful of angels that have been involved with companies like Quattro Wireless and AdMob since the beginning. It’s going to be a fun ride and one that we hope benefits everyone involved- publishers, advertisers, and readers.
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