Many were curious just where Gabriel Snyder was headed earlier this month when it was announced he was leaving The Wire, a popular news aggregation website, for an unnamed “VC-backed mobile start-up.”
Now, that start-up has been named: Jason Calacanis’s Inside. And I’ve gotten a chance to play with the app Snyder, the former editor of The Wire, Gawker, and, briefly, Newsweek.com, hopes will be the “best news product in the world.”
Launching today for iOS (with a light website for desktop viewing), with an Android version promised “soon,” Inside is yet another entrant into the mobile-first native news space. It joins Circa, Yahoo News Digest, and more that aim to cut down on the clutter that surrounds news on the Web and deliver the facts that matter in a simpler format.
But what sets Inside apart, and is clear from the start, is the sheer amount of content it is aiming to produce. Inside isn’t your average summary of the world’s top 20 stories that matter. It’s a breakdown of all the stories that matter. 1,000 of them a day. And it hardly misses a beat.
The stories are presented to us in a feed—because how else would we absorb an endless trickle of updates—and organized in what the company calls a “deck of cards” format. That means users can easily swipe their way around the app to find updates about a certain story, or more general topic areas, for keeping up on the news that matters most. Like a “Pandora for news,” he says, Inside will learn your preferences over time and show you only news that matches your specific interests.
Each little nugget of a story contains just the facts: a headline, a photo, a few key details, and a link to read more at the source. 300 characters, 40 words, no bullshit.
That’s a feature, Snyder says, that is meant to solve the “too much crap” problem. We’re all so busy keeping up with the stream, the former editor of such streams believes, that we’re feeling burnt out and a little overwhelmed.
Inside, he hopes, will change that.
“More people are better informed than ever before. The tools though, for getting the news, are still lacking—until Inside.”
The app itself has five main tabs. Three of them—All Updates, Top News, and My Feed—provide different ways to consume the app’s stories. The All Updates features, as its name suggests, all of the stories published on a given day. Spend five minutes on the tab and you’ll see the stories are constantly being published. But by who, exactly, it is unclear. When asked who was writing all these stories—1,000 pieces a day is a significant amount of content—Snyder wouldn’t say. He would only offer that they are “real” people but not in the newsroom, and they are paid as contractors, wherever they are.
Top News, which wasn’t fully developed when I got the preview, presumably uses an algorithm to show the app’s top stories each day. My Feed shows only the stories that matter to me based on my own personal preferences.
The other two tabs, Topics and Profile, are for tinkering with the app’s personal settings, or keeping track of all the topics that you are following, liking, and commenting on.
Which is to say: the app does allow comments. Despite a trend away from in-stream commenting on mobile news apps, Inside embraces it.
All of this is similar to what Snyder has overseen in past gigs—stories, content producers, and an audience—but what sets Inside apart from places like The Wire, he says, is technology.
It’s that technology, in fact, that drew him to the job in the first place.
Recounting a meeting with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, who was visiting newsrooms last year in the run-up to his launch of Medium, Snyder was struck by how similar Williams’s problems were to his own.
Why has technology not made it easier for editors like Snyder to find the best things on the Web and make sure his readers see the best stuff? There was talk of algorithms. Of metadata.
“I left that meeting a little dismayed at the gulf between the two conversations,” Snyder says, frustrated with his experience running digital newsrooms that were lacking in the technology department. “Even at this point we still don’t have a real good tech-edit relationship. I was really attracted to the idea of what was basically a tech company, and bring my edit experience to bear on the product.”
He adds: “At a certain point you understand that to crack these problems it requires a lot of technology.”
Thankfully Calacanis, Inside’s CEO and the Internet entrepreneur behind Weblogs and Mahalo, had been working on a solution.
“There’s a ton of great journalism out there,” wrote Calacanis, in an email announcement sent on behalf of the company. “The problem is that it gets lost with all the re-bloggers and aggregation sites that craft sensationalized and often times false headlines to trick the reader into clicking. Inside solves this by writing fact-filled updates and only directing our users to the best stuff.”
Snyder thinks those users are ready for it.
“The appetite for news is expanding,” he says. “More people are better informed than ever before. The tools though, for getting the news, are still lacking—until Inside.”
You can download it on your iPhone or BlackBerry today, or visit it at Inside.com (where you’ll find what looks like a “light” version of the website, much like Instagram). A mobile web version of can be seen at www.inside.com/all from any Android, Windows 8 or tablet, the company says, with an Android version planned for later this year.