The news video aggregator Watchup aims, in a sense, to recreate something like the traditional television newscast experience, but redesigned for tablets.
Soon it’ll have one of another element of that experience: ads.Watchup, the former Knight News Challenge winner with $1 million in fresh capital, is slated to release the latest iteration of its app next month, which for the first time will feature preroll advertisements via a new partnership with The Washington Post’s PostTV.
Launched just over a year ago, Watchup creates personalized newscasts for users, culled from video from dozens of global and local news organizations. The newest version of the app, slated to be released on March 13, will bring the third iteration of its interface.
Watchup CEO and founder Adriano Farano said the Post, like other news organizations, is looking for other opportunities to expand pre-roll video ad inventory. The Post’s ads will be incorporated into its videos that are played on the app; Watchup will get a cut of the revenue generated.
“We were able to increase engagement, and now we’re ready to start monetizing,” Farano said. “And just like The Washington Post, we are talking to many other potential partners, all of them who are looking for that opportunity to monetize our inventory together.” (Watchup’s latest round of funding comes from Microsoft Ventures, Stanford’s StartX, the Knight Foundation, and others. )
The move is also a way for The Post to get its video content in front of more viewers. The paper has invested heavily in video production, launching PostTV last year. In December, the Post became the first news organization featured on Google’s Chromecast, and Andrew Pergam, head of video at the Post, said the paper is constantly on the lookout for video partners.“For us, what’s really important is producing really high quality video journalism and then figuring out how to let it spread on ways to reach all new audiences,” Pergam said.
Most of Watchup’s content is integrated via public YouTube channels, but it now has about 12 partnerships with news organizations to directly provide content to the app, including The Wall Street Journal, AP, and PBS NewsHour. Farano said he is in discussions with other outlets as well.
Farano wouldn’t disclose how many users Watchup has. (It’s spent much of the past year ranked in the 100s or 200s in the U.S. App Store’s News category; at the moment, it’s No. 56.) But he did say engagement was growing. In January, active users watched an average of 62 videos over the course of the month, up from 45 after the launch of the second version of the app last summer. (The first version of the app only allowed users to add videos to their playlists manually, and as a result Watchup users only watched an average of 22 videos per month, Farano said.)
When users sign up for the app the first time, they select their interests and a time of day when they want their personalized newscast to begin. So at, say, 7 a.m. you get a push notification that your newscast is ready, and over breakfast, you can watch a series of videos — CNN on the latest from the Ukraine protests, AP on what happened overnight in Sochi, or Bloomberg’s take on Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp.
Farano said Watchup was able to increase user engagement because they made the “experience totally effortless.” Videos now start automatically when the app is launched and playlists can be personalized from there; they’ll also evolve as the app learns what kinds of videos a user prefers to watch. Users can also get more context on any story from a series of articles in a sidebar on the right side of the app.
The new version of the app will advance its ability to personalize the newscast and also allow users to choose videos by topic in addition to channel, Farano said. It’ll also be the first version available for Android tablets. (It currently works on iPads and Google Glass.) Farano said they’ll be exploring specific deals with some OEMs.