Author Archives: Ben Peterson

Newsana has a new owner

Dear Newsanaites,

It is with great joy (and a touch of grieving) that I hereby announce Newsana.com has been purchased by my friends at Relish Interactive.

Don’t worry – Newsana is in good hands. Relish has vowed to not only keep Newsana up and running, but to take our community to the next level.

Relish is one of Toronto’s most accomplished digital development shops, with a growing portfolio of digital content startups under their roof. Newsana will fit right in there – especially considering their team has played a huge role in building Newsana from day one. All said, I’m confident that under Relish’s watch Newsana.com will only get stronger with age.

On a personal note, thank you. Thank you for being a part of Newsana and thank you for making this one of the most rewarding periods of my professional life. I’ve learned heaps about start-ups, digital media, management and myself. I even know a little about coding, hipsters and cat photos now. It’s been a great ride (except for the damn cat photos)!

Warm Regards,
Ben Peterson

relish-logo

NewsanaPlus is hiring an editorial intern

NewsanaPlus (a new sister site to Newsana) has an internship position open; we’re looking for folks that are hungry to learn about the digital news business. The successful candidate will be expected to work full time until the end of the summer. A stipend will be provided.

NewsanaPlus is a news platform—we make it easy for wonks and big thinkers to create, curate and sell their very own digital newsmagazines. Curators combine their own analysis with links to top stories, providing their subscribers with insights you can’t find anywhere else.

You:
• Ravenously hungry to succeed
• Passionate about news and ideas
• Highly organized
• First-rate online communication skill and etiquette
• Social media savvy
• Excellent writing and grammar skills
• Dedication to solving problems and seeing things through to completion
• Good judgment

Extra points for…
• Journalism or copywriting experience, especially if in a newsroom or marketing environment
• Customer support/social media or community management experience in an online environment
• Previous experience in a startup or small company
• Coding abilities

Us:
• Passionate about news and ideas
• A hectic start-up where everyone wears many hats (and loves it!)
• Collaborative and fun
• A collegial environment, with minimal supervision
• Open to your ideas – you’ll have an amazing opportunity to experiment and build up your portfolio
• Believe that everything can and must be measured

Daily Responsibilities include:
• Learning as much as possible from this internship
• Liaising with NewsanaPlus curators
• Compiling Newsanaplus newsmagazines
• Checking newsmagazines for errors before publication
• Implementing improvements to NewsanaPlus newsmagazine formats

Internship Length and Location:
This is a three month internship is based in Toronto, ON. A small stipend will be provided. There possibility for renewal and/or part-time work based on performance.

Start date:
ASAP.

Application Deadline:
Rolling deadline. The sooner you submit your application the better.

Apply to:
Please send 1) a cover letter, 2) CV and 3) your LinkedIn profile URL in a brief email describing why you’d make a first-rate intern to Ben Peterson.

 

Why we launched NewsanaPlus and how it might be the next big thing in news

Last May The Onion published a piece particularly drenched in insight, Social Media Rock Star Makes $28,000 Per Year. It’s funny ‘cause it’s true—there are literally millions of people killing it on social media that don’t have a dime to show for it. Most of the folks raking it in from all the back-and-forth on Twitter, Facebook and the like are a tiny group of Silicon Valley elites who work and invest in these multi-billion dollar enterprises. What if, we thought, we could turn this financial dictatorship on its head and put some cash into the pockets of the people creating the actual value.

 

We launched Newsana in April of 2013 with high hopes and lofty ambitions. We wanted to build the world’s first online community that could scale and maintain a high quality of participation simultaneously. We wanted to gather a big group of subject-specific experts who would collectively find the most important news stories of the day.  By about November we realized this probably wasn’t going to happen the way we had hoped. While there is (and will remain) value in Newsana, it hasn’t evolved we had hoped. The burden we put on potential members, namely a lengthy application process, scared off a lot of potential members at the start. When we opened it up, the quality of content began to drop. I truly believe that it is possible to scale a high-quality community based around news, but we slowly realized we hadn’t yet found the golden goose.

 

At the same time, the revenue model we used to raise our first round of financing started to look, well, absurd. Huge changes in the digital advertising market (some of which happened before we launched, some after) meant we had to kiss that idea goodbye. Digital ad prices are in free fall and will continue to be. It’s a simple supply and demand problem—every day, tens of thousands of new sites go online, while the number of advertisers grows only slightly. You can still create a viable business around online ads, but you have to be producing the type of content that drives massive traffic. Top ten Justin Bieber moments work, higher quality analysis doesn’t, nor will it ever again.

 

So, alas, what were we to do? The core mission of Newsana has always been to provide readers with quality content, easing their information overload. But clearly the crowdsourcing model we developed has its flaws, as did our revenue mode. How could we kill both birds with one stone, I thought?

 

In the background of our everyday work, a number of other major structural changes were reshaping online journalism. The most important of these trends, as I seem them, are as follows:

1)      Readers are slowly and reluctantly coming around to paying for high quality digital content;

2)      The power of traditional brands is fast being eclipsed by the brand power of their superstar contributors, many of whom are leaving to create their own sites.

 

This last point here is particularly interesting. What if you didn’t need to be Nate Silver or Glenn Greenwald to have your own site? What if we could allow the best Newsana curators—and other social media superstars—to create and profit from their own little kingdom?

 

This way, our curators would be incentivized to keep the quality consistently high (unlike on Newsana currently) and, more importantly, they would finally start making some money from their huge online followings.

 

So, I locked myself in a basement for a few months, accompanied by only a few nibbles of food and a team of first-rate interns. How could we turn this premise into something viable? NewsanaPlus is the result.

 

NewsanaPlus is FAR from a finished product. It was built by stringing together a number of off-the-shelf solutions and required little-to-no actual coding by us. It is, in common start-up lingo, an MVP. Our goal with it is to prove two points:

A)     Social media superstars want to personally profit by creating their own curated newsmagazines, and;

B)      Most of our newsmagazines will get enough paid subscribers to make it worth our curators’ time and effort to create the newsmagazines in the first place.

 

If we can prove both are true, we’re in business. I firmly believe we have the beginnings of a truly disruptive business model. Take the middle-man out. Put the curator (or, in traditional news parlance, the editor) front and center. Make them the star and the main marketing force. Be 100% transparent and share revenue with those creating the real value. Scale up from there.

 

We’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a news curator and/or a subscriber to NewsanaPlus. What unifies both ends is the love of knowledge. You have to really, really, really care about a subject to spend time and money on it.  It might not seem like a necessity to most, but for those of us that that ‘get’ it, it’s all that matters.  It is because, in our hearts, we are news nerds. We are wonks.

 

Inspired by the #WeTheNorth campaign of the Toronto Raptors (yes I admit it), we wrote this up to summarize everything that NewsanaPlus means to us.

 

We are the wonks. We are the people that care.  Some say we are nerds, outsiders. Let them say whatever they want. We are proud. Proud to have a higher calling. We study, we think, we plan. Ultimately, we know. We know, deep inside, every detail. We shape the future. And now we have a home. #WeTheWonks.
Are you a wonk? If so, welcome to our little family.

 

Ben Peterson

CEO

Newsana and NewsanaPlus

 

P.S. Hit me up with any followups at ben (at) newsana.com.

Major Topic Changes

In our ongoing efforts to make www.newsana.com sing, we’ve played musical chairs with our topics, adding a bunch, killing a few and shuffling some around to make them more appealing to sit on between rounds.

 

This is a result of a combination of: A) suggestions from members about new topics; B) the desire to clean up the site by eliminating topics that haven’t been popping and/or are fairly similar to other topics performing much better; C) the general observation that concept-based topics like the Future of Journalism, which are relatively vague put provide some direction to members, are more effective than general and/or location based topics like Fashion or Asia Pacific.

 

Thus, we’ve made a whole raft of changes. A few members might be upset that we killed off topics that they have high ranking in. Never fear—we’ve created a whole bunch of other topics that should match your interests more closely. If not, please do let us know directly and we’ll do what we can.

 

Now, get ready for the dirty details. Here is the full list of changes we’ve made:

New topics: Conflict & War; Immigration; Entrepreneurship; Automotive; Corporate Responsibility; Finance & Economics; Energy; Relationships; Mental Health; Personal Development; Career Advice; Animal Welfare.

 

Topics that are no long with us (sniff, sniff): Africa; Europe; Asia Pacific; Middle East; Americas (you can see a pattern here-we are moving away from geography-based topics, to concept-based topics); Business of News and Digital Journalism (now part of Future of Journalism); Fitness & Nutrition (merged with Food & Cooking to create the new Food & Nutrition); Theater and Live Performance; Political Reform; Poverty Reduction; Web Design; Apps (merged with Mobile, which now becomes Devices and Apps); Television Journalism; Web Development; Fashion.

 

Topics that are renamed: Science to Scientific Discoveries; Environment to Environmental Protection; Mobile to Devices & Apps; Space to Space Exploration; Food & Cooking to Food & Nutrition; Children & Youth to Childhood Development; International Development & Aid to International Development.

 

New channels: Environment.

 

Channels that have been eliminated: World Issues.

 

Channels that are renamed: Lifestyle to Life; Technology to Science & Technology.

 

Topics that have been moved to a different channel: Social Media now is in Media; Breaking News is now in Media; Environmental Protection (formerly named Environment) is now in new Environment channel; Startups now in Business; Climate Change is now in Environment; Education is now in Life; International Development is now in World News.

 

Whew. That’s it for now.

 

Enjoy and happy pitching,

 

Ben Peterson and Jonathan Wong

Co-Founders

 

Newsana hiring community interns

We’re looking for two rock star interns to help us redefine the news industry.

 

You:

  • Passionate about news and ideas
  • Social media savvy (you must have a Twitter and/or Facebook presence to do well in this internship)
  • Strong communication skills
  • Bright and eager to learn
  • Creative
  • Hardworking
  • Outgoing and love people
  • A natural networker
  • Experience participating in online communities (You should have some strong opinions about what makes for a good community)
  • Excellent writing and grammar skills
  • Dedication to solving problems and seeing things through to completion
  • Good judgment, calm demeanour
  • Self-starter (VERY IMPORTANT) and able to work effectively remotely on assignments

(Extra points for…)

  • Journalism or copywriting experience, especially if in a newsroom or marketing environment
  • Customer support/social media or community management experience in an online environment
  • Previous experience in a startup or small company

Us:

  • Passionate about news and ideas
  • A hectic start-up where everyone wears many hats (and loves it!)
  • Collaborative and fun
  • A collegial environment, with minimal supervision
  • Open to your ideas – you’ll have an amazing opportunity to experiment and build up your portfolio
  • Community driven to the core
  • Believe that everything can and must be measured

Daily Responsibilities could include:

  • Learning as much as possible from this internship
  • Scheduling, updating and engaging on various of Newsana social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)
  • Participating in the Newsana community
  • Vetting community member applications
  • Copy editing as required
  • Engaging with Newsana members

Please send a CV, your LinkedIn profile URL and a brief email describing why you’d make a rock star intern to Ben Peterson: ben (at) newsana.com

 

Note: This is an unpaid 4 month internship based in Toronto, ON. Possibility for renewal and/or part-time work based on performance.
Application Deadline:  August 9th, 2013

 

Newsana is launching

Wow.

We finally made it.

Tomorrow, April 9th, Newsana will be launched and ready for the world to see.

It’s been a huge scramble around here (obviously) but I wanted to take a few minutes to share some short thoughts.

Firstly, it has been an honour to work with our team. Jon, Paul, Sacha, Kim, Rick, Joshua, Adam and Anna—thank you. I know it hasn’t always been easy (especially dealing with me) but you have put together a world-class website in a matter of months.

Secondly, our beta-testers have been incredible. You know who you are. You joined the site when it was rubbish and stuck with it, giving us feedback, finding bugs, and being generally loving and supporting when most would have quit on us. You’ll forever be part of Newsana lore.

Thirdly, I’m proud of what we have put together. To be sure, the site isn’t perfect. But I think we’ve done something special. I really believe the Internet is ready for a place like Newsana, where people come to find and discuss high quality news and ideas.  There is a long way to go, but I think we have a shot at being that place. I’m looking forward to fighting with all my strength to making sure this potential is realized.  

Lastly, thanks to you for being here and reading this. It means you’re probably involved, engaged or at least interested in Newsana. Please do get involved, and let us know what you think. Only with your help are we going make this site really, really, really rock.

With love,

Ben

Here we go…

Launch!

 

Finally! After almost 12 months of planning and building, Newsana is born. (Big exhale and sigh of relief.)

I’m so pumped, and there are so many things I want to say here, but I’m going to try to make this short. Before anything though, I want to thank everyone who made this possible—and especially you, our first users.

Jonny Wong and I created Newsana because we wanted to provide you (people who are passionate about high quality news and ideas) the opportunity to shape the news agenda—to surface the stories that impact you. Newsana shies away from the rapid-fire techniques of Twitter. Instead, we use the collective wisdom of our community to find the 5 most essential stories on a given topic. This provides readers with an easy (and tranquil) guide to the best the Internet has to offer.

The underlying motivation behind Newsana is our desire to celebrate quality news and ideas. There is just too much content out there, and that the vast majority of it is junk. Sifting through it all is a seemingly impossible task. But now, at Newsana, we are building a community to take on this problem, head on.

As we move forward, I only ask that you have a bit of patience. It will take some time to make Newsana as good as it can be. But give us your feedback, help us in the process, and together we are going to build something special.

Many thanks, and happy curating,

Ben Peterson
Co-Founder