Roman Karachinsky, CEO of news personalization startup News360, stopped by the TechCrunch TV studio earlier this week to show off the company’s recently redesigned Android app. He also shared a little bit of data on how the company’s behind-the-scenes algorithms are improving reader engagement.
Our video actually focuses on the iPad app, just because it’s easier to see the design on a bigger screen, but you’ll see the Android app in action, too. Karachinsky said that over the past six months or so, News360 has been updating the app across all platforms to match the improved look and increased personalization features that first launched on the iPad. The Android app was the last one to be updated, Karachinsky said.
As it rolls out new apps, the company has also been improving the algorithms it uses to provide personalized story recommendations to each reader. Karachinsky acknowledged that he’s facing a lot of competition from other personalized news apps, but he said that even though “it’s easy to enter this space,” you need to provide the right recommendations in order to “make this work.” That argument is often directed by smaller companies against the most high-profile app in the market, Flipboard, which they say is just repackaging your Facebook and Twitter feeds without using any deep technology.
In this case, Karachinsky offered some data to back up his assertion that the technology matters. He noted that the News360 team gives each algorithm update a name, and that when the app updated from Sputnik to Explorer 1 (something he described as “a very minor change”), the average number of articles read by each user in one day went up 12 percent.
“I think that what’s slowly going to change is that people are going to want much more algorithmic curation rather than just relying on the same poeple they follow or sources they’re already familiar with, because the signal-noise ratio keeps going down,” Karachinsky said. “Every year there’s more and more crap in my Facebook newsfeed, and every year there’s new sources being created or coming up that I just don’t have enough time to follow, even though they’re putting out great content.”
After the on-camera interview, Karachinsky also discussed how those algorithms fit into the company’s future plans. He said News360 is already testing out its technology as a way to recommend the most interesting advertising for each user, and he plans to roll out that personalized advertising to more widely over time. He said that this approach could also be expanded to other types of content, like videos or products.
“It’s more of a personal assistant — imagine that model, but with content,” he said.