NowThis News: Not Your Father’s CNN or Mother’s Huffington Post


NowThis News is hoping to put the likes of CNN, ABC News, the Washington Post and Huffington Post on notice with a new model of how to report and distribute the news — one, not coincidentally, staffed by a team of newshounds who came from those old school media outlets and who are eager to reinvent their business.

Formerly known as Planet Daily, NowThis News (don’t call it NTN) describes its mission as a post-TV, post-newspaper and post-website newsgathering operation, “A brand new video network built from scratch for people who get their news on mobile devices and through social streams.”

The startup has emerged from stealth mode with a Tumblr, a Facebook page and Twitter feed — not to mention details on its executive team helmed by former CNN executive Eason Jordan as GM, Ed O’Keefe from ABC News as editor-in-chief and Washington Post vet Katharine Zaleski as managing editor.

“We’re creating NowThis News to meet straight on the inevitable and rapid changes happening in news consumption: digital, mobile, social and video,” Kenneth Lerer, Partner of Lerer Ventures, co-founder of NowThis News along with business artner Eric Hippeau, said in a statement.

“It makes no sense for me, at all, to produce what’s already on TV,” said Lerer to AllThingsD. “We’re going to produce short video pieces that will hopefully be very viral and very social, one at a time.” Jordan added, “There’s an abundance of talk. We intend to report the news.”[more]

The startup has raised $5 million from backers Lerer Ventures, Bedrocket Media Ventures and Oak Ventures and is ensconced in Manhattan studios (the former Yahoo studios between 5th and 6th Avenues) with a staff of 16. The plan is to produce a series of select daily news reports to be distributed via social media and mobile, rather than a steady stream of talking heads.

The content will be professionally produced, rather than user-generated (as Current TV attempted at launch), going live in mid-October at the height of the US election cycle. By creating content specifically for mobile video news NowThis News intends to upend the cable news industry as the latter did with broadcast news.

Also announced, a “strategic partnership” with BuzzFeed, with NowThis News a dedicated vertical within the social news site’s platform, producing complementary and original content about which Betabeat quipped, “positioning the company’s content to go viral like chickenpox in Mrs. Henderson’s kindergarten class…Finally, a real broadcast for those among us who turn to YouTube in times of crisis!”

So yes, it’s competing against all web news brands with a digital strategy — such as HuffPost Live — but they’re convinced they’ve cracked the nut and can make a difference.

The startup’s launch team has the full pedigree to do so: Head of Production Steven Belser, former Head of Production of VICE Media; Chief Technology Officer Theo Burry, former Technical Director of The Huffington Post; and Social Editor Drake Martinet, former Social/Multimedia Editor of AllThingsD. It also includes veterans of NBC News, The New York Times, Newsweek/Daily Beast, Fox News, PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera, Slate, MTV, and HBO.

“The opportunity is as big as CNN’s opportunity was 25 years ago when CNN was able to have an enormous impact on how news was delivered to the consumer and disrupted broadcast TV,” said Lerer to Mashable. “I think now is the time when you can disrupt cable television news.”

“As more and more people turn to mobile and social outlets for their news, now is the perfect time to launch a video news network built for the digital generation,” said Jordan. As others have tried (and failed) before them, however, the real news will be if they can figure out a business model that will sustain their lofty goals.

While declining to discuss specifics of the startup’s nonlinear, on demand (read: no streaming) video news model, Hippeau tells Forbes‘ Jeff Bercovici that news is “a growth business. There are more people engaging with news thanks to digital technology than ever before. So it’s not a zero-sum game.”