The app generates customized newscasts for consumers who have registered their preferences on everything from location to topics of interest. Broadcasters on board include the Tribune, Meredith, Scripps, Bonten and Lilly station groups and Cowles-owned KHQ Spokane, Wash.
Having long been fed news stories, TV news consumers around the country are now able to design their own newscasts using content from local, national and international outlets streamed on the mobile video app Watchup.
The app, which draws stories from 100-plus news outlets, lets users select what kinds of stories they do — or don’t — want by registering their preferences on everything from location to topics of interest.
“The main goal is to create a product that can be appealing to emerging audiences,” says Co-Founder and CEO Adriano Farano. Young adults who don’t watch traditional TV news are top targets, he says. “The problem is not the content. The problem is the experience you design and how the content is packaged and distributed.”
The service has drawn the interest and participation of a growing number of local broadcasters. In the last two months, the Tribune, Meredith and Scripps station groups have entered into partnerships with Watchup, joining Bonten Media, Lilly Broadcasting and Cowles-owned KHQ Spokane, Wash.
Stations each contribute roughly 10 stories a day, most of which are produced for their traditional newscasts, Farano says. Stories average two-and-a-half minutes.
Mike Cukyne, SVP of digital media at Meredith and GM of the company’s Kansas City, Mo., duopoly, KCTV-KSMO, says Watchup is an opportunity to make gains reaching mobile users. “We create hours of news and content, and getting it in front of the people who are consuming is really paramount to us.”
All told, 81 TV stations in more than 50 markets covering 80% of the U.S. stream stories via Watchup.
Farano says he is in negotiations with “a few more local broadcasters” and would like to have enough stations on board to cover the entire country by the end of the year.
Watchup also pools content from big-name national news outlets. ABC, C-SPAN, CNN, PBS NewsHour and the BBC are among them, as are Vox and Gamespot and the satirical Onion.
Patrick McCreery, Meredith’s VP of news, says that it’s too early to tell what sort of traction his stations’ stories will get on Watchup, but there is little reason not to give it a shot.
He says doing so jibes with his “fundamental belief that we have to get our content in front of as many eyeballs as possible.”
“Watchup is one of many parts of a spider web of our video network that we are going to have to create over the next year or more,” McCreery says, adding that he’s not sure yet what all the other parts will be. “I do believe it has to be dozens for this to work.”
In addition, the investment — both financially and in manpower — is minimal, he says.
Farano will not give out the exact number of users, saying only there are “hundreds of thousands.” Whatever the number, the service has yet to make money, he concedes.It intends to be ad supported, but has yet to start selling ads. It currently operates using the $4.25 million in seed money it raised from investors including Tribune, Microsoft, McClatchy and the Knight Foundation .
Whatever revenue is eventually generated will be shared among the content partners. Uploading stories is largely an automated process.
Steve Schwaid, VP of digital strategies at the media consultancy CJ&N, says he believes Watchup has definite upsides for broadcasters in that it provides a means of delivering the snack-sized content digital users look for. “You need to flood the sites with content and let the user choose what they want,” he says.
Schwaid says the idea is particularly compelling to the young adults that TV stations seemingly can’t reach — and have neither the time nor interest in sitting through a traditional newscast, even one streamed online.
“Millennials look for certain stories, and cherry pick for certain things,” he says, adding that local TV lags in meeting that demand. “We’re stuck at streaming and posting five stories a day,” he says.
Farano gives local broadcasters credit for getting the crux of their job — reporting the news — right.
While there are “a lot of startups in the content space,” Watchup is different from most because it is about “creating an ecosystem for great journalism to thrive in,” he says. “We are not reinventing the wheel. We are just applying the principles of another product.”
And as other news apps struggle — Circa, for instance, is running out of money — Farano says he believes Watchup has a future based on “its totally different approach to content.
“We really respect the work of producing journalistic content,” he says. “When a story is nicely crafted, when it has a strong editorial soul, those things matter.”