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Prismatic: Hoping to Succeed Where Other News Aggregators Have Failed

Want news that rel­e­vant to you? Want it deliv­ered direct to your smart­phone? You’d bet­ter check out start­up news aggre­ga­tor Pris­mat­ic.

This is one com­pa­ny that seem to have rewrit­ten the rule­book when it comes to online news and could pro­vide some great oppor­tu­ni­ties for those look­ing for media jobs.

By attract­ing the crème de la crème of the NLP/Machine Learn­ing PhDs, Pris­mat­ic claims to be able to har­ness the pow­er of social media and some clever dis­tri­b­u­tion to give con­sumers a bet­ter way of access­ing con­tent online. Accord­ing to Pris­mat­ic founder Brad­ford Cross, his com­pa­ny offers a ser­vice that lies some­where between an RSS feed and Twit­ter and ends up pro­vid­ing the same kind of ser­vice offered by news­pa­pers only with a wider range of sources.

Cross said: “It’s not just about per­son­al­iza­tion… it’s about how media is con­sumed now. In the old days, you could just go to the New York Times and get all your news, or what­ev­er. But that’s not the case any more, and it will like­ly nev­er be the case again. The news is all dis­trib­uted now, to a thou­sand dif­fer­ent places.”

In order to make sure Pris­mat­ic remains at the top of its game, Cross and his team have just fin­ished a Series A round led by Accel’s Jim Brey­er, which net­ted them a cool $15 mil­lion. This takes the total raised to $16.5 mil­lion, most of which will be ploughed into plen­ty of R&D to make sure the ser­vice is as good as it can be.

Wel­come to Prismatic

It wasn’t that long ago that we would buy a news­pa­per if we want­ed to find out what was going on in the world. We would sit at the cof­fee shop, or enjoy break­fast in bed on a Sun­day with a steam­ing cup of Joe, and leaf through the pages at our leisure.

As well as deliv­er­ing us the lat­est news, we would also be pre­sent­ed with fea­tures, snip­pets, edi­to­r­i­al and oth­er bits and pieces that tal­ent­ed edi­tors felt their read­ers would be inter­est­ed in and enjoy read­ing. Now the way we con­sume news has changed, but devel­op­ers have strug­gled to repli­cate that instinct and feel for rel­e­vant con­tent that the news­pa­per edi­tors have.

The tech world has seen count­less star­tups strug­gle to deliv­er such con­tent to users when and how they want­ed it. From Digg and Stum­ble­upon, to Flip­board and Wavii – the bat­tle for rel­e­vant con­tent deliv­ered fast, has always been an uphill strug­gle. Until now.

Basi­cal­ly, Pris­mat­ic makes sure the con­tent it deliv­ers to its users is rel­e­vant and time­ly by link­ing to their social media accounts and analysing their fol­low­ers and news feeds. By machine learn­ing it can then cat­e­go­rize them into top­ics, indi­vid­u­als and pub­li­ca­tions and by then using algo­rithms and user activ­i­ty sig­nals it can devise a news­feed that’s entire­ly bespoke.

The mobile inter­face is sim­ple and slick and made for the touch­screen. It allows users to share, dis­like or declare con­tent as ‘inter­est­ing’ and the ser­vice con­tin­ues to learn, the more a user inter­acts with it, mak­ing sure all feeds remain relevant.

Sounds Good. Does it Have a Future?

Orig­i­nal­ly launched as a web-based ser­vice, Pris­mat­ic has devel­oped slow­ly in an effort to remain sus­tain­able and only revealed its app in August. Since then it’s rumoured to have attract­ed 25K week­ly users, with 10K log­ging on via Facebook.

The investors are cer­tain­ly con­vinced the ser­vice has a future too. “The ever-increas­ing amount of online data will require a more sophis­ti­cat­ed approach on how we select rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion,” investor Yuri Mil­ner said. “This new approach could be 50 per­cent dri­ven by your net­work and 50 per­cent dri­ven by algo­rithms and could make con­sump­tion of online data more relevant.”

By devel­op­ing slow­ly and grow­ing as a prop­er, grown-up busi­ness, Pris­mat­ic cer­tain­ly seems to be endear­ing itself to users as they rec­og­nize its com­mit­ment to build­ing a qual­i­ty ser­vice. Even though it com­petes with some big hit­ters such as Pulse, Zite and Flip­board, Cross believes its ded­i­ca­tion and high stan­dards will see it succeed.

Although it cur­rent­ly has no means of gen­er­at­ing rev­enue, there are dis­cus­sions with Ama­zon around pro­vid­ing affil­i­ate links in sto­ries. It’s also look­ing into expand­ing into con­tent types besides news such as events and apps, which could also bring mon­e­ti­za­tion opportunities.


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