Bradford Cross of news and social site Prismatic has raised $16.5 million in series-A funding for his relevant, intelligent news service, and the investment might just pay off. In a world where services like Facebook and Twitter deliver a near-constant feed of information – but with scattershot relevance – a content delivery system that offers the discovery of social connections combined with timely news results is a lucrative prospect.
The Bumpy Information Super-Highway
The problem, of course, is the sheer amount of “newsworthy” data on the web. Every company, every media outlet, and every pundit considers their views on a subject to be relevant and timely, but who decides what gets circulated and how far it spreads? Sites like Techmeme, StumbleUpon, and Wavii have all tried it and met with varying degrees of success. But according to a December 5 article in the Wall Street Journal, Prismatic has a different approach.
Right now, the power to disribute news online rests in two places. First are the keyboards and smartphones of consumers, who decide if they want to pass on a link or not; second are sites like Twitter, which, informed by global trends, reports whatever it determines is relevant.
Prismatic wants to change the game. Cross’s game plan involves not just crawling Twitter, Facebook, and “anything with a URL,” as he puts it, but then categorizing stories by topic and publication. As users follow Topics and Publications, as well as Individuals, the site uses algorithm-based machine learning to produce a constantly relevant newsfeed.
This is the Holy Grail of content delivery, and as mentioned in a recent Tech Crunch article, actually seems to work, providing a combination of the familiar, the interesting, and the serendipitous. As $15 million investor Yuri Milner puts it, “the ever-increasing amount of online data will require a more sophisticated approach on how we select relevant information,” and argues Prismatic “could be 50 percent driven by your network and 50 percent driven by algorithms.”
Don’t Get Comfortable
Cross and Milner want to use a slow, thoughtful approach to content that produces reliable results. Their venture is certainly ambitious, but so far doens’t seem entirely impossible; in a world dominated by intrusive, unwanted news feeds, that’s quite the accomplishment.
For content marketers, this changing state of affairs is something to watch. As Ronn Torossian of 5WPR notes in a recent Search Engine Journal article, companies sometimes get so focused on search engine optimization (SEO) that they miss organic mind- and marketshare. Torossian calls out best practices, like using expert guest bloggers, regularly sending out press releases, and liaising with reporters to make sure media coverage of a market niche always includes the company.
And with initiatives like Prismatic gaining steam, the targeted nature of content becomes increasingly crucial. If users are able to filter the information they consume not just by personal interest, but with the aid of machine learning algorithms that also mine their online activities for data, companies too focused on churning out content or who don’t consider their audience before posting may find themselves suddenly sidelined.
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