Posts Tagged ‘news’

Ode to True/Slant: First year of a news startup in rhyme

Posted by andreaitis on April 8, 2010

One single year has come and gone
Since the Alpha launch of
Launches tend to be crazy, that’s the default
Ours was no exception courtesy of Mossberg-comma-Walt

But let me back up, start with some history
Of how True/Slant first came to be
LD had the idea, he needed a check
He got the first round with a powerpoint deck


We sat in an office;  year 2008, month July
Just three of us then: Lewis, Coates and I
In the back right corner we commandeered our space
Our office christened once the whiteboard was in place

We talked, we drew, we diagrammed and graphed
We walked to the corner for lunch at ‘Wich Craft
We posted on Techcrunch for a CTO
Enter SMcNally; he had us at “Hello”

Like speed-dating we interviewed for UI and Design
Surely we met with at least eight or nine
Then James rolled in, the last one to show
With his Williamsburg skinny jeans and glasses; he had us at “No”

He was smart and clear but he did not hob-nob
J argued back.  As LD says, “That’s what got you the job.”
With the Athletes on board we could really begin
The beat was on: No Sleep Til Brooklyn

During this time I came to realize
A VC’s Fred Wilson was very nearby
Up one floor, in fact, and me a big fan
That’s how my Fred Wilson Watch began

Read the rest of this entry »


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True/Slant News Cruise

Posted by andreaitis on June 9, 2009

I read Jeff Koyen’s post The world’s 10 worst cruises yesterday with a sense of superiority and snark.  Who would go on an Adventures in Parrotdise Cruise? Or a Float2Paradise Psychic Medium Cruise?  Do I even know anyone who knows anyone who would go?   The only possible reason I could fathom dramamine-ing up for ShipRocked or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man Cruise would be to cover it for a story.

Except… late at night,  as I was waiting for the Beta day adrenaline to dissipate,  my mind wandered.   Jeff identified the top 10 plus several more of these wacky theme cruises.  Clearly, people are going.  It must be a lot of people, making lots of money for the cruise lines, or there wouldn’t be so many of them.

And that’s when it hit me: a True/Slant News Cruise

Before you scoff and smirk, let me explain.  We’re a new business in a tough economy.  We know it’ll take a while for the advertising market to bounce back, so it makes sense to look at other revenue opportunities.  If James Carville and Mary Matalin can do it, why can’t we?

Here’s how it would work:

* Our 100+ contributors would be on board.  They would sit with passengers during meals and chat and be generally sociable.  Except for Taibbi.  We’ll exempt him from this part.

* We’ll set up discussions on various news topics, featuring our contributors.  We’ll also set up some debates.  Rick Ungar will argue with everyone.

* We’ll have News Tech 101 sessions, where we teach people how to find news on the Internet and their mobile devices, how to use Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, etc.

* We’ll have some special cooking seminars with Robin Dorian, Mike Hess and Susan Toepfer.

* At night, we’ll have a T/S Jam Session.  After all, we have some real-live musicians on the site.  Rozzo, Knowles and Carlozo, start working on the set list now.

These are just initial thoughts, but you can see the potential.

I’ll get to work on the business plan.  Who’s in, and what’re you bringing to the (floating) table?

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News, Algorithms and the Human Touch

Posted by andreaitis on May 12, 2009

With the rise of self-publishing tools and the decline of traditional newsrooms, the editor’s role  has been rigorously debated.  Today, looking at the latest updates to Google News, there is a loud voice saying the editor is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have.  Why, you ask?  According to Techcrunch, Google News “still sucks” for  one reason:  no human touch.

Google News

The problem is that Google uses an algorithm to do this clustering. As the vastly superior news aggregator Techmeme, learned quite a while ago, there needs to be some human curation involved. While an algorithm may not be able to see the difference in iPhone stories (or Microsoft stories, or anything else in my example for that matter), a human could.

Further, the biggest problem with Google News when it comes to tech news is that many of the items that appear are laughably old. It’s fine if you want to say it’s for the masses to get a better overview of what’s going on, but at least indicate that these topics aren’t breaking items just because some site decided to write about it again a day or two days or a week after someone else published the story first.

via Google News Gets An Update. Still Sucks.

I  have long been frustrated by the Google News implementation.  But it’s been the only option for so long that we simply lower our expectations and adjust to the suckage.  To me, that’s the core issue with Google products: they make users adjust to them, rather than modifying their products to better meet consumer need.  They never actually finish a product.  They’ll get about 80% there, slap a Beta label on it and call it a day.  Meanwhile, the last 20% is typically the most important (and the hardest).  These are the details that make something fit, that make users nod their heads and smile, that build loyalty and frequency.   Google seems to lose patience and steam, and just move on.   We are left with a product that has great potential, but never really fits.

The algorithm, for example, is a great foundation. To make the Google News experience sing (or at least hum), it needs to have some human filtering, a feed of HSS instead of RSS.  The New York Times is moving in this direction with their brand new launch of  TimesWire.   And, of course, we have our True/Slant Network Activity Feed.

Will these replace Google News?  No.  But the door is open for alternatives and experimentation. Google will have to evolve more aggressively to keep ahead, figuring out along the way how to include the various rivers and streams of news.   With hope, entering a new phase of  human touch tech.

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The Emerging Media Model: Sound Familiar?

Posted by andreaitis on March 20, 2009

San Francisco Gate columnist Mark Morford sums up the recent future-of-news thinking from the geek gurus.  His conclusion, like theirs: no one really knows what will be.  But he imagines the perfect media mashup.    Here’s to having it all.

Maybe the emerging media model — if “model” is, in fact, the right word and not, say, “mind-numbingly fickle and infuriating hellspawn Charybdis noisemaker” — will have it all: the best aspects of experimental social networking (Shirky), a rich variety of voices (Winer), journalistic expertise where you need it most (Johnson), lots of solid credibility surrounding an inspired social narrative (um, me), a glorious new gadget to read it all on (Apple) — and, most importantly of all, huge numbers of active, engaged readers and communities willing pay for it all.

via Die, newspaper, die? / The geek gurus all weigh in on the end of dead-tree media. Are they wrong?.

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Getting on the Band Wagon

Posted by andreaitis on February 24, 2009

Hello, news industry?  Meet the music industry.  You might have a thing or two to talk about….

Major Label Acts Get Hip to Music Apps

It took Apple to convince the labels to sell music on the internet. Now, the company’s transformation of the phone into something resembling a computer, onto which just about anything can be installed, has set the stage for the next phase of music distribution.

As for Universal Music Group, it not only gets to draw fans closer to these artists through the apps, but also data about which content is working as well as new hooks into the iTunes music store where people can purchase the tracks (not included). And of course all of it can be updated in real time from the server side, keeping content fresh and fans engaged.

Major Label Acts Get Hip to Music Apps | Epicenter from

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Posted by andreaitis on January 16, 2009

i participated in a panel this past week on the future of news and information.   it was my first public outing as a true/slant’r, and i have to admit i was a bit rusty.  all those high school theater performances and still, i get nervous.  a good warmup, though, for what’s to come.   david berkowitz has a  roundup of my  session.

mostly, i thought we barely covered the tip of the tech iceberg.  no one talked about twitter or google reader or iphones or other non-traditional methods for consuming news.    there’s a news generation gap: the people who get up in the cold, dark morning and pad down to the cold, dark front porch to bring in the newspaper … and the people who roll over, reach for the mobile phone and scroll through the news  while under the still- warm covers.   how do we close that gap?  that would have been an interesting discussion.

public speaking in this day and age is practically a contact sport  you are instantly analyzed, judged,  pummeled and (if lucky) applauded, all at the whim of wifi and mobile devices.  it makes it that much more challenging.   so next time, i’m definitely bringing my notes with me to calm my nerves.  and maybe a  small flask.  ;-j

i did wander through the harvard club after the panel.  prittee, prittee good.  and i was accosted by a man in the coat check area who was looking for a female ceo for his relationship-fixer-upper startup.  at first i thought he was waiting to meet someone in particular.  but no, it seems he was hanging out in the harvard club just hoping to meet a woman who might want to be  ceo of an alleged startup.  i guess all you need on your resume is estrogen.  any takers?

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dude, where’s my journalist?

Posted by andreaitis on January 13, 2009

a couple of things happened over the last few days that got me thinking:

1.  i was on a call to prep for a digital breakfast panel on the future of news and information.  it’s put together by gotham media ventures, and will be at the harvard club.  fancy.   the call was supposed to be a quick intro but lasted twice as long because, rather than just prepping, we got into the actual conversation ourselves.

2.  fredwilson wrote avoiding the big yellow taxi moment, a post about newspapers, journalists, reporters and the yet-to-be-solved business model.  it prompted a lively and insightful discussion with  over 150 responses — including a comment  from our ceo.

3.  i spoke to a sportswriter who is now teaching journalism at loyola college in maryland.   i asked her:  how do you teach journalism today?   she said she is asked that question more than any other.

it occurred to me this morning that there is a correlation between what’s happening in the video world and what’s happening in the print world.   we used to watch tv by network — must-see-tv on nbc — we were loyal to the network.  now, i can watch tv on my pc or when i’m mobile using hulu, or i can use boxee and watch anything i want on my tv.  i become the network.   my loyalty is not to the tv networks of old, but to the shows and personalities.    i watch house and  jon stewart and true beauty.    (btw, ashton kutcher and tyra banks might be geniuses.)

it’s the same with print.  i talk about andrew sullivan’s  ‘why i blog’ and michael hirschorn’s ‘end times.’ both are connected to the atlantic, but that’s not how i reference them.  i am aligned with the writer, not the publication.  my loyalty is to the human brand.  this isn’t 100%, of course.  there is credibility attached to certain media brands, tho that’s been impacted by an influx of fakes and phonies like jayson blair and stephen glass, among others.

which leads me to my next thought:  are journalists a dying breed?   to me,  ‘journalist’ was a word uttered with wistful reverence.  it was aspirational, something to work for and earn, almost like being knighted.   in all my years in news, i never called myself a journalist; i thought of myself as a storyteller.  but i know i did the job with integrity and ethics.  i know i was careful and thoughtful in my reporting.  i was never cavalier; the details mattered.

there are different pieces to being a journalist: the research, the angle, the hunches, the facts, the writing, the presentation….the parameters when you’re chasing the story, and the boundaries when you’re telling the story.   it’s the training, the skills that build solid reporting and credibility, that allow you to responsibly push those boundaries.

anyone can  ‘report’ today.  we all know that, and we’ve talked about mass quantity and the credibility spectrum.  but below the surface is this question: will the next generation learn the skills of basic reporting?  will they want to, or will they feel it’s unnecessary because they can instantly publish?  we learned so much of the craft from actually being in a newsroom, eavesdropping on phone conversations and hanging out in the bar.   every newsroom in every media company had such a bar.  we didn’t even use the name, just called it ‘across the road.’    i’m not sure digital communication can replace that physical presence.   and those bars?  some aspiring journalist would do well to take a tour of those bars and pubs.  there are stories to be heard and stories to be told, and they won’t be there forever.

it’s possible today to  be a ‘reporter’ without ever leaving your house.    i’m just not sure that’s a good thing.   the role of the journalist will be redefined and reshaped as the industry continues to change; we’re just at the beginning of that transformation.  and up-and-coming journalists?  i guess the ones who will make it will understand the steps they need to take along the way.  at least, i hope so.   because, content isn’t king anymore.  credibility is.

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startup’ing, the second trimester

Posted by andreaitis on December 9, 2008

there is a rhythm to the startup cycle, at least for us.  the first three months or so were the dreamy times: everything fresh and new, imagining what we might build and how it might work, all 3…then 4 of us conspiring together in gleeful anticipation.

then, in the fourth month, there was a noticeable shift.   just as we were launching our first bits of functionality, the mood changed.  personalities became…sharper.  not in a bad way, it just suddenly became simultaneously apparent that this is all real.  big, and real.  seeing some working parts pushed us along, and we each became intensely focused on our particular role, what we had to bring to the project.  for the guys, that meant they were grumpy at times.   i, of course, was a ray of sunshine.  as always.  ;-p

we’ve continued to launch other bits and pieces in a closed alpha, and that initial burst of intensity has eased into a good, constant buzz.  we’ve got a name, a tagline and a logo.  we’re working on site design now, and prepping for our second board meeting.  and, still, seeing signs along the way.   when we were at the jeff jarvis news summit a few weeks ago i happened to notice a display in the hallway: the new york herald tribune.   our tagline — “News is more than what happens” — is a quote from jock whitney, publisher of the new york herald tribune.  there’s more to that story for another time, but here’s a look at the display…

we’re finishing up our second trimester in a good place.  more after the board meeting…

buzzingly yours –

ps:  oh!!!  i saw fred wilson TWICE last week.  once in the elevator, and once when i went with our New Guy to the sandwich place around the corner.  i think i was a little less dorky, but fred wilson would have to confirm that.  of course, he doesn’t really know my usual level of dorkiness so it might be hard for him to judge…

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today is the day i met fred wilson

Posted by andreaitis on October 23, 2008

really.  i did.   and it happened through happenstance.

we attended the New Business Models for News Summit today at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.  the program, in its second year, is organized by jeff jarvis and had an all-star turnout.   andrew heyward, craig newmark, jay rosen,  larry kramer … so many others and … fred wilson.  but, it wasn’t just that fred wilson was attending the summit.  oh, no … fred wilson was also the leader of my break-out session.  yep.

all through the strange happenings of happenstance.

so, here it is.  i get to meet fred wilson.  and, it’s weird.  because, as it turns out, the moral of today’s story is this:  social media = social awkwardness.

let me explain.   i keep up with the must-read industry blogs.  including fred’s blog,   i follow the usual culprits on twitter.  including fred wilson.    between blog posts and twitter, you get to know someone. the music they like.  the sports teams they follow.  their perspectives and opinions.  the things that make them happy and the things that drive them up the wall.

these social media mechanisms create an intimacy with people you have never met.  i know stowe boyd wakes up every day and twitters ‘good morning edgelings.’   i know jeff jarvis was working on his book while on the acela train.   and i know fred wilson has currently been on an okkervil river kick.

so i know stuff about fred wilson.   and as i was about to meet him, i felt like maybe i’d rather not.   that meeting him after i already ‘know’ him was some strange social shift, going in reverse from personal to impersonal.

and let me be clear: i am not the socially awkward type.  i am typically the one who puts people at ease.  after all, i spent years convincing people to spill their guts on national television.

but the flow of social media meanderings – publicly available, open to all – creates this sense of intimacy.  our tech version of the celebrity syndrome, i suppose.   in our world, though, we have no paparazzi.  we control the flow of information.  it is, in many ways, a social experiment: what goes out, what comes back, what evolves…

and my little experiment still leads me here:  social media = social awkwardness.

the panel led by fred wilson was great – an active, open, lively discussion.  the meeting of fred wilson was okay.  slight to moderate awkwardness.   on my part, at least.   i really don’t know him well enough to gauge what he thought.   we’ll see if he swings by to check out our prototype.  i hope so.  i’d kind of like a do-over.

socially yours –

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Posted by andreaitis on August 11, 2008

we got the call.  the “hey, what are you guys doing?” call.   next thing we know, some facts about our still-stealthy startup in   yay.

here ’tis: Former AOL Exec Dvorkin Starts News Aggregator Backed by Forbes, Velocity

reporting live from the acela –


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