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June 19, 2012, 11 a.m.
Aggregation & Discovery

Watchup wants to be a “Hulu for news junkies” on your iPad

Knight News Challenge winner Watchup aggregates videos from YouTube for a new iPad app that lets users customize their own mini-newscasts.

Watch-whenever-you-want Family Guy reruns are great — but have you ever wished there was a Hulu for the news? The team behind Knight News Challenge winner Watchup hopes so.

Watchup is an iPad app that lets users curate their own newscasts. Pick 10 stories from 10 channels, then lean back with your morning coffee and watch as the stories roll past without user intervention. Channels cover topics like finance, technology, breaking news, business, and other news categories. The app comes preloaded with 10 channels, but users will be able to customize from a list of about 40 total.

CEO Adriano Farano says his goal is to make it easy for news junkies to catch up with video news at peak iPad use times, in the morning and evening, without having to jump back and forth between different apps or websites. Essentially, the goal is to have quality video find the consumer rather than making users seek it out in multiple places. Here’s a quick demo from the Watchup website:

So where do these quality videos come from? Watchup is working on lining up news partners, but at launch they’re relying mainly on the vast video seas of YouTube, where lots of newsrooms are already posting their content. “We basically have The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, PBS — all the major news channels are there,” Farano told me. “We are talking to some publishers whose content is not available through YouTube for some reason, and usually they’re extremely interested to partner with us. The initial lineup will be mainly from YouTube.”

Watchup aims to be a solution for people who feel “lost” amid the endless stream of videos on YouTube, and want a simpler experience. (“It’s so easy that even your grandmother can get it,” Farano says.) Users can develop a single playlist in one place for a watching experience that’s more personalized than TV and more “lean back” than clicking around online. “The whole experience is about bringing down the discovery point to just a few seconds,” he said.

Farano says Watchup plans to generate revenue from pre-roll ads that will air before videos, and the plan is to give news organizations a cut. The trick will be to create an interface that’s appealing enough to users that they’ll abandon engrained habits and be willing to watch ads that they might otherwise be able to avoid. Farano argues it’s also an ideal solution for news organizations like The Wall Street Journal that find they can’t produce enough video to meet advertising demand.

“You are selling out your inventory,” Farano said. “You have a problem. You have advertisers but you don’t have enough to sell them, so the way we come into the game is we say, ‘Hey, we are a Hulu for news junkies…Give us your ads and we share the revenue.”

Watchup’s Knight News Challenge funding will come as a venture capital investment instead of as a grant; the amount of the funding was not disclosed.

POSTED     June 19, 2012, 11 a.m.
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