With financing over $115m, news aggregation site SmartNews is now worth more than a billion dollars, making it the world’s newest unicorn.
What makes this interesting is that SmartNews isn’t a news site in the traditional sense – it doesn’t produce any content. Like Google, it’s an aggregator, but unlike Google, the AI component of the formula is constantly tweaking itself with the individual user in mind.
For example, if you start your SmartNews journey by saying that you are interested in US sports, Indian politics and Korean social news, that’s what you’ll be fed, but the system won’t take your opinion for granted.
That’s how it stays relevant.
Remember when you signed up for a Yahoo account and were in a certain frame of mind and then after a while, your homepage (when that was a thing) was clogged with useful information that you weren’t really that interested it?
SmartNews pays attention to what you click on and scroll to and what you ignore – not just what you think you like. Also, the algorithm appears to be complex enough to not just serve you loads of the same thing, constantly conducting detailed tests to see what you might like on certain days and at certain times – what you like at home vs at work for example, and improving as time goes on.
It’s an exciting system that will likely echo into other, more traditional, news networks as time goes on. It’s not hard to imagine CNN or Fox tailoring their offering to individual users based on their previous actions, creating a more user-friendly – and arguably biased – news service.
Above all, SmartNews has struck a chord, is simple and easy to use and presents immediate and obvious value to it’s large user base.