Jim Spencer spent the end of the 1990's as an executive at NBC, AOL and Ask Jeeves when those were all viable media companies, before the dot-com crash. Now he's taking on the iPad-media-era from an office across the street at his alma mater, the University of Missouri-Columbia. That's home to what was the world's first school of journalism, founded more than 100 years ago.
Spencer's new startup Newsy.com has combined an innovative journalistic model, a low-cost Midwest business strategy and a beautiful touchscreen design to rocket to the top 10 of news apps for the iPad in iTunes. Remember how the iPad was supposed to change journalism? Newsy could be an example of how it's actually working; the resulting app is one you should be sure to check out if you have an iPad. (Links: iPad, iPhone)
Last week Newsy announced that it has raised $2 million to extend its work. The 25-person team is headquartered across the street from the university's journalism school and grabs many of the smartest graduates to come and work for it. Spencer says the low cost of living and the state of Missouri's tax breaks for tech startups make the location a perfect place to build his team.
How Newsy Works
Newsy doesn't cover breaking news and it probably never will. Instead, the team waits until a topic is buzzing, then grabs video clips from multiple sources across the political perspective to combine into a short video segment. The resulting content is very clearly incorporating, with extensive attribution, the work of diverse news production teams from around the world. The breadth of editorial vision seems genuinely diverse, too. Clips from Fox News and Democracy Now! will both appear in the same stories at times.
The production value applied to putting these video segments together occasionally has some rough edges, but it is generally quite good and will no doubt improve with the infusion of cash. "People talk about content farms," Spencer says, "but we're more like a Farm Team. We're an analyzer, not an aggregator."
Spencer says that people are increasingly skeptical about bias in the news, but that most media outlets don't want to report on what other outlets are saying. That gives his organization a unique chance to do it smarter, faster and cheaper. The company's iPad app was built by the winners of a local student iPhone app design contest. Newsy liked the team's work and hired them to build what's shaping up to be a very successful iPad app.
Newsy will be using some of its new funds to pursue syndication of its video content out onto portals around the Web, among other business strategies.
Drag-and-drop, touchscreen video from multiple sources? Sounds like a great part of the future of journalism to me.