5 startups changing the way the news business delivers content

It’s fair to say that the future of news consumption and media won’t look like a bunch of traditional newspapers copied onto the desktop web, and when five different entrepreneurs addressed paidContent Live Wednesday about the ways they’re bringing content online, the approaches were as diverse as the startups themselves.

However, a few themes came out of our presentations from Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, Jeff Fluhr, co-founder and CEO of Spreecast, Matt Galligan, co-founder and CEO of Circa, Aria Haghighi, co-Founder and CTO of Prismatic, and Josh Miller, co-founder of Branch. Here were the ones we found most compelling:

  • The future of news will come from other people. This isn’t to say that the majority of the world will eventually get all of their news from Twitter and Facebook (s fb), but it is fair to say that we’ll increasingly rely on recommendations and smarter social cues from friends and respected strangers as we sort through the vast amount of information available online. This could mean something like Prismatic, which as my colleague Mathew Ingram has written, is working to combine data from social media with individual interests to create a smarter social reader for news.
  • We’ll be reading all the news that fits — on mobile. For traditional sites, having a strategy that works for mobile is not longer an option, but we’ll increasingly see mobile-specific approaches from startups like Instagram, which was able to scale successfully by creating a simple, fast photo experience for mobile users in a hurry, or Circa, the startup that’s re-thinking how to structure news stories based on the attention spans and needs of mobile readers.  “We distill these important details into specific pages,” Galligan said. “You hop through and jump from point to point.”
  • It’s all about the individual person and the brand they build. Obviously individuals have always had a hand in shaping the news since the days of newspaper editors picking the stories that end up on the front page. But since the early days of blogging we’ve seen the rise of the personal brand grow in importance, and our panel earlier on Wednesday with some of the pre-eminent bloggers like Maria Popova and Andrew Sullivan only solidified the idea that smart, passionate writers can build their own readership online. Berry talked about how RebelMouse is allowing any individual, whether a famous blogger or not, to highlight personal achievements and content in one place, and with the rise of Twitter we’ll likely see this continue. “RebelMouse allows you in a very efficient way to say, let’s make this my splash,” he said.
  • People want to talk about the news but they’re looking for smart conversations. We’re moving on from the days of television round-tables and flame wars in comment threads — or at least many people are looking to move on. Several interesting tools have launched recently that allow for more dynamic conversations online about the news, and we’re seeing those conversations happen both in text and multimedia. Spreecast joins the likes of Google+ Hangouts in lettings users host video discussions with additional social components, and Branch is looking to re-invent online discussions by making them invite-only and embeddable across the web.
  • Traditional advertising can’t support the future, but no one’s clear what the alternative looks like. Some of our most heated discussions all day came from the discussion over how to make money from content in a way that allows writers and artists to benefit, consumers to enjoy reasonable prices, and businesses to stay afloat. From Popova discussing affiliate links to Buzzfeed discussing sponsored content, it’s clear we’re far from reaching a consensus. But from Prismatic’s efforts to work with brands to make money off their content on the service to Spreecast’s premium services, it’s clear that startups are at least considering smarter ways to approach the problem than traditional banner ads.

Check out the rest of our PaidContent Live 2013 coverage here.