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Kosmix unveils a new news aggregator with a personalized and social touch
Meehive isn't your father's newspaper. In fact, no two newspapers are alike with this service. Meehive is a newspaper publisher that allows anyone to have their own news formatted and delivered in a way that's more personal and social.
Kosmix, a discovery engine and guide to the Web, is set to launch the personalized news site Meehive on Wednesday. For Kosmix, which has raised $55 million in venture funding, Meehive is the company's first attempt at organizing information around people and people’s interest. "If you have an interest in flower arrangements, If there’s a really cool blog or if the New York Times covers it, it’s very unlikely you're going to see it because eople are not going to put that on the front page of the New York Times," said co-founder Venky Harinarayan, in an interview with me down at Kosmix headquarters in Menlo Park, Ca. "We're taking your nano interests and making sure that you actually connect to the things that are happening around that interest."
Meehive aggregates feeds from about 5,000 large sources of news, such as The Times, CNN, Wall Street Journal, as well as seven million blogs. The top stories and publications displayed are based on categories a person chooses, such as business, sports, entertainment, etc., and the credibility of a publication and how often a story was viewed.
On my Meehive, my top story was "Big Advance for Time Traveler Novelist," written by the New York Times. Meehive chose this as my top story because of my explicit interest in books, and because of the newness of the story, the credibility of the publisher and the popularity (number of times it was viewed), according to Sesh Seshadri, Kosmix's CTO, who gave me the demo that's in the video segment, embedded in this story.
Over time, Kosmix will take into account behavioral elements into their algorithm to determine which stories to serve up to you. For instance, an upcoming Twitter integration will allow Kosmix to tweak your news by observing your interests and activities on Twitter. So, based on who you're following and what you're searching for and Tweeting about, Kosmix can determine what stories to recommend you read.
In April or May, Kosmix plans to integrate with Facebook Connect, so you can use your Facebook ID to log in and to see your Kosmix activities and friends' Kosmix activites on Facebook.
So, what does it look like and how does it work?
Here's a look at my front page on my "Hive," after I personalized it to reflect my interests. I chose Business and Finance, and drilled down into categories within those larger topics. I also selected "books" under the Entertainment category.
Your Meehive newspaper can be put together after you choose which categories you are interested in. There are defined categories and topics you can choose from. But you can also add your own topics. For instance, if you select "Sports" and there is no listing for your sport, you can add it, like I did by adding "Cycling."
What's fun about Meehive isn't so much the personalization of the news, though that's useful. What's novel and fun is seeing what other people are reading and having a shared experience with them.
I'm reminded of the many Sundays when I've read and shared newspapers with friends on the beach or at some weekend house. It's always fun to see who grabs the business section, sports and lifestyle section. As for me, I'm always inclined to reach for the "Week in Review" in the Sunday Times.
Here's Venky Harinarayan's newspaper. Harinarayan is the co-founder of Meehive. As you can see, his newspaper is very different from mine.
Another interesting aspect of Meehive is that it's aggregating friends' activities, much like Facebook captures all your friends' activities and makes them readily accessible. With Meehive, people can watch what other people are selecting and recommending and commenting on.
Here's the activities of me and my few friends on Meehive.
I have watched many news sites created over the time I've been a journalist covering Internet companies. Most sites are essentially trying to replicate or replace the human editor. Digg and Reddit are well-known sites where the stories are ranked and displayed based on an aggregation of anonymous people voting on what's popular. The crowd is the editor in this case. Fark aggregates news from submissions, but have editors displaying the news.
In the past year alone, there have been new sites that are simple directories of news, like AllTop, which is a directory of stories aggregated under topics, but with no personalization. The editor in this case is AllTop, which determines which sources are the best for any given topic. Socialmedian, a site where your social network recommends the news, is another emerging news aggregator. The editor here is your network of friends, who filter out the stories for you. The more friends who recommend a story, the higher the probability it'll rise to the top of your homepage.
Of course, there are the many news aggregators that exist, like Newsgator and Google Reader. And, for me, my online newspaper of choice has been Google News, which has been around for about five years.
All these new ways to surface news are good and certainly refreshing to the traditional alternative - news served up by editors who think they know what everyone should be reading. The old news model is a lot like the bundled music packages. But as you and I know, just because you like one song in an album, doesn't mean you want all the songs in that album. In like vein, just because you like one story written by the New York Times, it doesn't mean you want all of the stories in that paper. Disaggregation killed the music industry and it's killing the print industry too.
I get where we're going here and where we want to go.
But will it be only the few who want to personalize their news and make selections? Personalization is great, but only if people care to have things personalized. People are inherently lazy. And, asking them to select categories isn't something they'll want to do, even if their tastes change over time. There's also the fact that some people don't want to give up their preferences because they don't want anyone to know that they're really interested in knowing. They secretly interested in the Britney Spears' gossip, but will publicly say they're interested in Dostoyevsky.
And, what about the serendipitous nature of newspapers that people may not want to lose? Often people don't want to read about what they're interested in, they want to be surprised, informed and told what they should know.
Perhaps it's just the way I was brought up reading newspapers. Maybe the newer generations will be so wired to always make their interests known and always receive what they put in. Maybe the time for a real personalized approach to newspapers has come.
And, maybe, just maybe Meehive is showing us what that looks like.
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Kosmix was acquired by Walmart in May of 2011 to create @WalmartLabs.
Through the innovative fusion of retail, social and mobile, @WalmartLabs is redefining Commerce for the largest retailer worldwide. We are a group comprised of the brightest technologists and businesspeople in the industry, excited about the limitless opportunities that this next generation of Commerce will bring to billions of people around the globe, all in an effort to help them save money and live better.
Kosmix was funded by Time Warner Investments, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Dag Ventures, private investor Ed Zander and Jeff Bezos' personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.
WalmartLabs is hiring.
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On December 19, 2008, socialmedian announced that it was sold to Xing for $7.5 million, $4 million upfront and $3.5 million in an earn out
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