NowThis News, a social news video application from Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer and former CEO Eric Hippeau, is trying to make watching the news fun and interesting for a new generation of consumers. The app, which is now available on iOS, curates a combination of original and third-party news videos. It’s being pitched as the only video news app users need, but the early selection is a little skimpy.
I downloaded the app, which quietly went live on Friday, and browsed through the selection. Currently, there’s categories for Top stories, Obama vs. Romney, Awesome debates, Malala, Tech and Fun. Users can swipe through a selection of video clips for each category. The opening video right now is an original clip that sums up some of the complicated math that Obama and Romney need to pull off to win enough electoral votes.
Most of the clips are introduced by a NowThis News host. Some clips from users or outside sources, like a wordless video of post-Sandy gas lines, are just launched with NowThis News branding. Eason Jordan, a former chief news executive at CNN who is now general manager for NowThis News, told me Monday that the app will get eight to 10 original clips added through the day, which is supplemented by an additional 10 to 15 clips. The goal is to get people watching video news again using the tools they turn to most frequently.
“We feel like younger people are not watching traditional TV news, they’re getting video news from mobile and social, and we’re building for that audience,” Jordan said.
The company, which launched in stealth mode in April under the name Planet Daily and has $5 million in funding, will also be releasing an Android app in the coming weeks. Users can also access NowThis News videos through the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages and through a dedicated vertical on BuzzFeed.
Jordan said NowThis News is trying to escape the trap of being boring by encouraging feedback and interactivity. That means users can submit their own videos, comment on current clips and suggest future stories.
I pointed out to Jordan that some of the content is getting a little stale, including old footage from the presidential debates and a look at the fall from space by Felix Baumgartner. He said the content pipeline is just getting cranked up and will produce even more pieces as NowThis News builds out its team, which is currently at 25 people. He believes a diet of 20 to 25 videos a day will satisfy most users.
NowThis News’ focus on news and interactivity may pit it against HuffPost Live, the Huffington Post’s streaming video network that tries to elicit user participation through webcams, smartphones and tablets. Jordan said that he respects HuffPost Live, but the service is a stream of “talking heads,” while NowThis News lets people choose which videos they want to view.
Election day will be an interesting test of whether watching NowThis News is better than just flipping channels, picking off videos from a user’s social stream or turning to any of the social video apps available.