Roman Karachinsky, CEO, News360 is speaking in the Innovative Services & Applications track on Day One of the LTE North America 2012 conference, taking place on the 14-15th November 2012 at the Fairmont Dallas Hotel, Texas. Ahead of the show we talk to him about how the how fast mobile network access is altering the landscape for content discovery and consumption.
How does News360 work and how is it different from other news aggregation apps?
News360 works by collecting articles and blog posts from all around the web, analysing them to determine what they are about, and then clustering and ranking them according to your specific interests and reading patterns. We’re different from other news aggregators in that we don’t need to know which feeds you want to read—instead, we find the right sources and authors for you, based on your personal interest profile, which we create by analysing your behaviour in News360, and, if you give us permission, in Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Google Reader and Google+.
Some analysts believe apps such as yours are changing the game for content delivery. Some traditional media companies are trying to compete with a walled garden approach. Is there room for both approaches?
I don’t think these approaches are mutually exclusive. Some people are prepared to pay for high-quality content and that’s great – but I think the idea of a 100 per cent-editorialised front page is going away, as is the complete ownership of a publisher’s relationship with the reader. We’re finally at a stage where there is enough data, and the technology is mature enough to create a super-relevant feed for you, which should incorporate both subscription-based and free content. The idea is to filter out the noise and focus your attention on the things you shouldn’t miss, not to devalue content — which is why I think some of the walled-garden publishers are starting to work with news aggregators to use them as a distribution mechanism for paid content.
How important are the sharing, social and location features of News360?
They are very important. For a large portion of readers, sharing is an inherent part of the enjoyment of news, and it actually helps us tremendously to understand the user’s interests. Local news in News360 is also a popular feature, but I think there is more potential there that hasn’t been tapped yet—we’re working on it.
Some say you’re at the vanguard of a new trend of personalisation. How far can we go down this path?
I think we are still at very early stages of personalisation. My hope is that in 10 years artificial intelligence, coupled with the great amount of data that we all share will be a huge part of our lives. Emerging services that are similar to us, such as Siri and Google now try to use knowledge and context to surface the right information and are already delightful, but I think there is still a long, long way to go. Of course, there are a number of issues that will need to be tackled along the way, from privacy and data ownership to technological complexity.
Your app presumably relies on the speeds and responsiveness of networks. How excited are you about new technologies such as fibre and LTE?
I think that LTE is a tremendous opportunity for mobile devices to finally bridge the gap into the truly post-PC world. The fact that wireless speeds are high enough now to offload any processing, analysis and data storage into the cloud without penalties opens up many opportunities for innovation.
Poor network coverage in some areas must be a pain point as it will impact the usefulness of your app. Would you prefer carriers to focus on coverage over speed?
I think both are important. In our case specifically, though, I would rather have 80 per cent of users have a great experience than 100 per cent of users have an average one, so if I had to choose one I’d to side with speed.
Many carriers are concerned about signalling issues caused by apps repeatedly polling the network. As a developer, to what extent does this come into your thinking?
We try to design our apps to be good citizens in terms of data access, since it significantly affects both network load and battery life, but it’s not something for which we would compromise the user experience in any way.
What do you expect to be your biggest challenges in the next couple of years?
There are many challenges we think about, but the one that we’re most excited about is improving the content consumption experience even as content creation swells to an unprecedented scale and the signal/noise ratio of social and traditional filters and discovery methods gets lower and lower. Our goal is to understand the difference in people’s approach to content, and find it for them before they even go looking.