Monday, May 6, 2013

What's The Deal With Acquiring News Reader Apps?

LinkedIn started the trend by acquiring Pulse news for around $90 Million. Then Summly was purchased by Yahoo! for $30 Million and Google gobbled Wavii for around the same amount.

All three acquisitions have been in the news reader space. Summly and Wavii are especially noteworthy acquisitions because of the summarization technology these news readers are built on. Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing are the underlying  coding technologies that summarize a news article into a short paragraph; perfect for mobile snacking. But lets not leave Pulse behind. This news reader app lays out news headlines in a tile format for quick browsing and reading. The usual sharing and favoriting are built right into all three apps. I wouldn't be surprised if LinkedIn builds some kind of summarization technology into Pulse to bring it on equal footing with Summly and Wavii. In fact since its acquisition, LinkedIn has already added its latest 'LinkedIn Influencers' as a news source to Pulse. Now, instead of logging into LinkedIn to read your favorite influencer's updates, you can do so directly in Pulse - in that concise tile format.

So lets come to the meat of this post. Why is an internet search company, an internet media company and a professional networking company snapping up mobile news reader apps? In a word, content. In 3 words, content in context. We are slowly but surely realizing that mobile is the future - that's the context - mobile. Accessing news is one of the top tasks we perform on our smartphone, so that's content. So you take news (content) and shove it down mobile's throat (context) and you get Summly, Wavii and Pulse at the other end (hmmm maybe this analogy wasn't the best. don't get me wrong, I am not comparing these apps to waste matter!).

In a Mobile world, you have to keep users engaged; have them keep coming back to your app to consume your content. Increased engagement means more eye balls, which mean better advertising revenue. For LinkedIn, more eyeballs means a larger professional network.

As per comScore, accessing news on smartphone represents 49% of usage while on Tablets, it represents 59% of usage.

Source: Mobile Future in Focus 2013, comScore
Top Mobile Media Activities by Share of Smartphone & Tablet Users
Source: comScore MobiLens & TabLens, U.S., 3-month Avg., Ending Dec-2012

So this takes care of content. How about context?

Source: Mobile Future in Focus 2013, comScore
Share of Total Time Spent Online for Selected Properties
Source: comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform (Beta), U.S., Dec-2012

We can see that mobile is growing, but not only in terms of replacing desktop usage but also creating net new usage as mobile can be used at times and places that a desktop cannot create 'usage.' Companies are realizing this trend and creating ways in which we can snack on content in the mobile context. Simplified and summarized are driving mobile engagement. We're seeing this happening in front of our eyes with news and social media updates. Google can use Wavii's technology and apply it to Google+. You'd be able to get summarized versions of updates. In fact I see Google's purchase of Wavii as a stepping stone to summarization on GLASS.

Is it too late to acquire a news reader app? Facebook, AOL, HuffPo, Business Insider, NYT, are you guys shopping around? If you haven't come across a French startup called Mobiles Republic, then let me point you in its direction. Mobiles Republic has some pretty neat and simplified news reader offerings.

What's next? How will we consume other forms of content on mobile? Videos? Let's cover that in another post. Is anyone using an app to read this blog?

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