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November 19, 2018
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Media

Stoop aims to improve your news diet with an easy way to find and read newsletters

in Apps/Delhi/India/Media/mobile/Politics/Startups by

Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”

To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.

“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”

Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.

That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that publications need to “establish the right relationship to readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”

“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party and that software is choosing what to surface next not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”

So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.

Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address where they can be sent along to whomever you like.

The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said they could get access to additional analytics and also make subscriptions easier by integrating with the app’s instant subscribe option.

And the company’s ambitions even go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers. They’re also working on OpenBundle, an initiative around bundled news subscriptions with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.

“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Sweet Escape connects travelers to photographers for truly Insta-worthy holiday pics

in Airbnb/Apps/Asia/Delhi/India/Jakarta/Media/Philippines/Politics/sharing economy/Singapore/smartphone/social media/Southeast Asia/Thailand/United States by

The rise of smartphone cameras and social media in recent years has fuelled a new level of marking and sharing memories using photos, but one startup is betting that people are prepared to go the next level and spend money to hire professional photographers to make their photos even better.

Focused on travel, Sweet Escape is an Indonesia-based startup that to work with over 2,000 photographers across over 400 cities in some 100 countries. The idea is simple. If you’re traveling — overseas or locally — and want high quality photos of your trip, or just part of it, you can use Sweet Escape to find and book out a local snapper for you and your group.

Photo shoots last for two hours and are charged at $300, Sweet Escape founder David Soong told TechCrunch in an interview, while activities vary from regular holiday snaps, to weddings and honeymoons, proposals, anniversaries, family get-togethers, graduations and more. While he didn’t disclose revenue, Soong said the three-year-old business has seen its revenue grow by 8X over the last year.

Sweet Escape has raised $1 million to date, including a recent seed round in August. Now it is aiming to raise its Series A to broaden its global focus, starting with more offices in Southeast Asia, and go beyond travel customers.

Though the thought of forking out $500 for photos doesn’t immediately appeal to me — the ultimate social media humbug — it isn’t hard to imagine a large demographic of travelers are open to it. Particularly when that cost is shared across a group and the photos are far higher quality than your average camera or selfie stick-mounted phone.

Already, Sweet Escape claims to have served 10,000 customers. It encourages users to book in advance but it also offers last-minute matching to photographers, all of whom are tightly vetted, with the photos themselves returned within three days. That’s a figure that Soong said will drop to 24 hours next year thanks to Sweet Escape’s in-house team, which handles all editing for the photographers.

But travel is just the starting point for Sweet Escape.

“Behavior has chained dramatically in the last 10 years,” Soong said. “We were more private but social media has changed the way people share — now, if you don’t have a picture of the trip then it isn’t real. But photos are an investment”

“More and more people are booking us for occasions like birthdays, holidays, graduations and others events, and we increasingly see more use cases than we originally envisaged. The travel angle allows us to scale much faster — if you look at Airbnb, you have to go global right away — but once we have a good amount of usage in a city, we can go deeper,” added COO and co-founder Emile Etienne.

Soong and his team of 70 are primarily in Jakarta with some staff located in the Philippines, but he is aiming to expand the on-the-ground presence in travel spots in Southeast Asia. That’s likely to include Singapore, Thailand and beyond, although the business isn’t just present in Asia — Sweet Escape already has a network of photographers covering 40 cities in the U.S. The idea is to help raise awareness of the service among consumers and photographers and explore more local services that the platform could host.

For photographers, Sweet Escape seems appealing because it can help remove the toil of having to bring clients in. Those for whom photography is a part-time hobby, in particular, can build it in and around their working and daily lives, Soong argued. Beyond taking quality photos — all photographers provide samples for assessment to join the platform — Soong said that would-be Sweet Escape snappers need to know their city, be proud of it and able to host guests who visit.

News Source = techcrunch.com

The Correspondent launches campaign to bring its ad-free journalism to the US

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De Correspondent, a Dutch news organization aiming to “unbreak the news,” is planning to launch in the United States next year as The Correspondent. To fund its efforts, it’s hoping to raise $2.5 million from future readers.

Co-founder and CEO Ernst Pfauth (a former tech journalist who previously served as editor in chief at The Next Web) said this campaign is meant to test the waters of whether U.S. readers are interested in The Correspondent’s journalism. If it raises the money, it will launch in the U.S. next spring. If it doesn’t, it will reconsider those plans.

“We want there to be a critical mass that supports this,” Pfauth said. “We don’t want to launch, then see if enough people are interested.”

What the company has developed in the Netherlands, and what it’s hoping to replicate in the U.S., is a news organization with a direct connection to readers. For one thing, that means foregoing any ad revenue and relying entirely on readers for support. (Hence the crowdfunding campaign, where you can sign up by paying any amount you want.) It has a paywall, but any member can circumvent it and promote stories they think are important by sharing the individual links.

For another, it means treating readers as a key source for stories. In Pfauth’s view, by signing up as a “founding member,” you’re not so simply paying for a subscription, “You’re joining a cause. You not just giving us your money — though the money is essential — but you’re sharing your knowledge and spreading articles.”

If that sounds a bit touchy-feely, here’s a concrete example: Last year, the organization broke the news that a videotape and related documents showed that Shell had detailed knowledge about the dangers of climate change as far back as 1991. And apparently it obtained the crucial material from a reader.

Pfauth said that in most cases, reporters at The Correspondent will share their story ideas with members as soon as they start working on it, which allows readers to share their perspectives as the story develops. That can mean talking to doctors about hospital bureaucracy, or interviewing refugees about their experiences. It also means that The Correspondent encourages its journalists to spend 30 to 50 percent of their time going through the comments section (which it calls the “contributions” section), where only members can post.

Pfauth argued that all of this is crucial for breaking out of the limited perspective of so many news stories, where journalists “only talk to people who get paid to talk to the press.” That description struck close to home — I’m someone who spends a lot of their time dealing with PR pros who, yes, get paid to talk to me, or to entrepreneurs who are trying to convince me to write about their companies.

So how do you get people to share their perspective in a less self-interested (or, in the case of comments, less rant-y) way? Pfauth pointed to tactics like making sure to verify the identity of sources and asking “really specific questions.” But he also said, “Most people are idealistic about the thing they really care about. They want the information to be good.”

“You are going to find examples of other newspapers who have done things like this, but it’s always incidental, it’s not routine,” he added. “In our organization, we have this systematic approach to every story that we cover.”

This strategy makes it harder to quickly cover breaking news, but in fact, Pfauth said that’s quite intentional.

“We tell our correspondents, please ignore the news — the news is about incidents,” he said. “Focus on the topics in your beat that are really changing our society.”

As part of this campaign, The Correspondent has also enlisted a number of high-profile “ambassadors” who support its mission. Those ambassadors include FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, Wikimedia’s Jimmy Wales, director Judd Apatow, journalist, musician Roseanne Cash, journalist and investor Om Malik and others.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Wattpad launches a new program offering paid access to exclusive stories

in Apps/Books/consumer/Delhi/India/Media/mobile/Politics/reading/stories/wattpad by

Steve Jobs famously once said that people don’t read anymore, but it turns out younger people are, in fact, reading quite a lot – just in different ways than expected. Case in point: 70 million readers log in to online community Wattpad each month, where they spend over 22 billion minutes engaged in its original stories. 80 percent of that user base is either Millennial or Gen Z and 70 percent are female. Today, Wattpad is going after its most avid readers with the launch of new program offering exclusive stories, called Wattpad Next.

Currently in beta, Wattpad Next will initially be available to Wattpad’s 13 million monthly users in the U.S. It will then roll out to Spanish-speaking countries, followed by a global launch in 2019.

The company has also tested the program before today in Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, and the Philippines.

The program offers users a new way to support favorite writers by offering a selection of stories that you have to pay to read.

The stories span genres and completion status, as some are still being written in the serialized format known to Wattpad readers, while others are finished.

These are purchased using Wattpad’s new virtual currency called Coins, which are bought in-app in packs starting at 99 cents for 9 coins and ranging up to $7.99 for 230 coins. Users can then choose to purchase the stories by chapter, or in full for those works that are completed.

 

At launch, there are 50 exclusive stories available, with plans to further grow that selection and participating writers in early 2019.

Writers are being invited to join Next – they can’t choose to sign up. Wattpad says it selected stories based on data science.

“Specialists from our Story DNA machine learning teams collaborated with our editorial experts to find stories and writers with exceptional potential for Wattpad Next,” a spokesperson said.

The revenue generated by the stories goes largely to the writers, but the company declined to disclose the split.

“Wattpad users around the world have overwhelmingly embraced the chance to support their favorite writers through the Wattpad Next (beta) program,” said Allen Lau, Wattpad CEO and co-founder, in a statement.

“This program is part of our commitment to helping writers earn money from their stories, monetizing stories both on and off of Wattpad. Along with opportunities to connect with brands, and work with Wattpad Studios to turn their stories into books, TV shows, films, and digital projects, writers can now make money directly from the fans that have supported them since their first page. The beta phase of Wattpad Next is just the beginning, as we look at new ways to help support Wattpad writers around the world,” he said.

Wattpad Next is one of several ways the company has chosen to generate revenue. The company also monetizes via ads, which users can opt out of by subscribing to Wattpad Premium.

Wattpad declined to say how many members have converted to that program, but notes it “exceeded expectations.”

The company has gotten involved in Hollywood deal-making through its studio arm, too, and has turned some of its top stories into books.

This has led to nearly a thousand of its stories to date being published as books or turned into TV shows, movies, and other digital media projects, the company claims. A few of its recent high-profile wins on that front include Wattpad’s co-producing of Hulu’s “Light as a Feather” with AwesomenessTV; the Netflix success story that was “The Kissing Booth” movie; and Sony Pictures Television acquisition of the rights to Wattpad story “Death is my BFF,” which was read more than 92 million times.

Wattpad this year raised $51 million from Tencent and others, and has signed new partnerships with iflix, Sony, SYFY, and others.

Wattpad Next (beta) is available on the web, iOS and Android.

News Source = techcrunch.com

What’s next? The top media executives on the job market

in Delhi/Entertainment/Erik Huggers/India/joanna coles/Media/Politics/stefan blom/TC/troy carter/Video by

Keep an eye out for the next moves by these entrepreneurs and executives. A number of the biggest names in media left their jobs over the last year (or announced they will be leaving soon), including a handful of now-billionaires who have resources, ambition, and time on their hands to explore something new.

We are experimenting with new content forms at TechCrunch. This is a rough draft of something new —provide feedback directly to the author, Eric Peckham (@epeckham), our columnist focused on the intersection of media and technology.

Most notably, there are Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch (with rumored plans to launch a VC firm), Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, VICE founder/CEO Shane Smith (who transitioned to a Chairman role), Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe, and Oath’s CEO Tim Armstrong.

There’s also a long list of other names you may not recognize but should keep on your radar in the months ahead as they found new startups or take key leadership roles at top media/tech companies.

Today, Snap’s VP of Content Nick Bell announced he will be leaving the company by the end of the year. He oversaw all media partnerships and content operations for the Snapchat Discover section over the last 5 years. The 34-year old sold his first company, Teenfront.com, at age 16 and started multiple ventures afterward until joining global media conglomerate News Corp (where he became SVP of Digital Product). As a serial entrepreneur and one of the most sought-after experts in digital video, expect Bell’s next move to be noteworthy.

Here are 12 other leaders at the intersection of media and technology who are currently available (publicly, at least) and plotting their next endeavor:

Joanna Coles, Photo by Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Joanna Coles, former Chief Content Officer at Hearst
Joanna Coles, who oversaw all editorial operations for the 300-title global publishing group Hearst since September 2016, announced with a fun video on August 6 that she would be stepping down. The former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire (as they shifted into a digital-first era) said she would announce her next adventure sometime this fall after taking a break. Coles has been a board member of Snap since 2015 and was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Rich Battista, former CEO of Time Inc
Time Inc’s CEO left the helm of the publishing group upon its $2.8 billion acquisition by Meredith Corp in the spring. Battista held a range of major publishing, TV, and digital media roles before then, from leading Fox’s cable networks to running Mandalay Sports Media to turning around Gemstar-TV Guide and selling it for $2.3 billion. At various points in his career Battista has been a big company executive, an investor, and an entrepreneur.

Joel Stillerman, former Chief Content Officer at Hulu
Stillerman was one of several executives who departed Hulu in May in a leadership reshuffle by the company’s new CEO. Stillerman was previously President of Original Programming and Development for AMC and SundanceTV. At a time when nearly every major TV company is vying to compete with Netflix through another streaming video platform (on their own or in partnership with others), there’s a lot of expertise to be had from the executive to oversaw all content for Netflix’s top competitor.

George Strompolos, Founder and former CEO of Fullscreen
After AT&T acquired The Chernin Group’s remaining stake in Otter Media (Fullscreen’s parent company) in September, Fullscreen’s George Strompolos stepped down as CEO of the multi-channel network he founded in 2011. According to his LinkedIn profile, LA-based Strompolos in advising and investing in startups for the time being.

Erik Huggers, former CEO of VEVO
Huggers stepped down from VEVO in April after 3 years. He was previously an SVP at Verizon and President of Intel Media (which Verizon acquired). As a supervisory board member of Germany’s largest broadcasting group, ProSiebenSat.1, Huggers has also recently joined the board of ProSiebenSat.1’s streaming TV service 7TV, which is a joint venture with Discovery Inc.

Photo courtesy of Sophie Watts.

Sophie Watts, former President of STX Entertainment
Sophie Watts joined investor Robert Simonds in 2011 to develop a new film/TV studio with backing from TPG Growth. According to the WSJ, STX Entertainment has been planning a $500 million IPO in Hong Kong. As president, she primarily oversaw unscripted TV, digital, and VR operations. She left in January to explore new opportunities. Watts—who started her career in London producing videos for Beyoncé, Elton John, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and others—was named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 in 2016 and is still just 32.

Jonathan Carson, former President of Mic
Carson founded 3 startups (music social network Outer Sound, interactive media consultancy Intercities, and social media intelligence company BuzzMetrics) before becoming the “CEO of Digital” at Nielsen and then the Chief Revenue Officer at VEVO. In July, he stepped down from VC-backed news startup Mic after one year as President. Expect his next move to be within the same realm of video, social, mobile, and data that he’s worked in thus far.

Colin Carrier, former Chief Strategy Officer at Twitch
Carrier joined Twitch in 2013, leaving the Eversport Media startup he co-founded to become General Manager of Justin.TV which operated independently from the rest of Twitch. He transitioned to become Twitch’s Chief Strategy Officer in 2014 upon Amazon’s $1 billion acquisition of the live-streaming platform. While CSO, he oversaw the acquisition of CurseMedia and ClipMine and developed a personal angel investment portfolio of over 30 startups (including Cruise, which GM acquired for over $1B). He departed Twitch over the summer.

Troy Carter speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Troy Carter, former Global Head of Creator Services at Spotify
A career talent manager in the music industry who worked with artists like Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor, Carter joined Spotify in June 2016 as the face of the streaming service within the music industry. Having stepped down in September, he is among several top executives who have left Spotify in 2018 before and after it listed on the NYSE. Carter—who also built an angel investing portfolio of over 40 startups—hasn’t announced his next endeavor but appears to still be making investments through the VC fund he co-founded, Cross Culture Ventures.

Stefan Blom, former Chief Content Officer of Spotify
Blom left Spotify early this year just before the music streaming service went public with a $29 billion market cap. He had been Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Content Officer over the prior 4 years, working in part on Spotify’s early steps into original video (which it retreated from). Before Spotify, he was CEO of the Nordic division at EMI (a notable record label group).

Matthew Ball, former Head of Strategy at Amazon Studios
Ball joined Amazon Studios as Head of Strategy in 2016 after working within The Chernin Group as Director of Strategy & Business Development for Otter Media (which is now fully owned by AT&T). Since leaving Amazon earlier this year, he has continued to publish widely-read blog posts about the future of media for MediaREDEF—which he has been doing since 2014—and, according to his Twitter bio, is currently “tinkering away on a small idea that could be more”.

Matt Pincus, Founder and former CEO of SONGS Music Publishing
Last December, Pincus sold his innovative music publishing firm SONGS Music Publishing, which had become the largest independent publishing of contemporary music in the US, to Kobalt for a rumored $150 million. He departed in March and has since become a Special Advisor to Snap Inc and taken an Entrepreneur-in-Residence title at leading digital media merchant bank LionTree.

Who are other top executives at the intersection of media + tech who are launching new companies or available to fill open CEO roles? Let me know on Twitter at @epeckham.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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