Jason Calacanis: Mobile news app Inside rewards ‘real journalism’

Jason Calacanis
Jason Calacanis
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Los Angeles entrepreneur Jason Calacanis is back with a new mobile news app that summarizes articles in 300 characters –- or about 40 words –- or less.

His bet: With more people hoovering up news while on the go, they need a news app built for their smartphones.

It may not be a groundbreaking notion, but its aim is true.

Inside searches out the original article rather than rewarding someone who rehashed someone else’s scoop and then slapped a clever, link-baiting headline on it (not to mention feel-good fluff and the now ubiquitous listicle).


“We want to reward people doing real journalism,” Calacanis said in an interview last week. “Every piece of content is going to be high-quality. We are not wasting your time.”

As with his previous venture Mahalo, which started out as a human-powered search engine, Calacanis has stuck with his philosophy that people, not machines, can deliver better news and information.

Inside has “dozens and dozens” of curators -- college-educated native English speakers who work part time from home and are paid hourly to scour the Web for the best news stories and to summarize more than 1,000 of them each day.

“We built what we think is a better solution,” Calacanis said. “We sat down as team and decided as news junkies what we would want and what a machine could never do.”


Of course, Calacanis has loads of competition, including services that scan the Web for the best news stories and those that focus on delivering their own (think Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher and their new venture Re/code, or Ezra Klein making a break from the Washington Post for Vox).

Calacanis does have an ace in the hole: He has recruited Gabriel Snyder, former editor in chief of The Wire, a website owned by Atlantic Media, as chief content officer.

And Calacanis is a new-media figure in his own right. He rose to Internet fame by starting the Silicon Alley Reporter, which covered the dot-com boom in New York. He went on to found Mahalo, which was supposed to be an alternative to Google. Its latest incarnation was producing how-to videos for YouTube.

Now he has given up on Mahalo and focused on Inside. He nabbed the brand and the domain of the hot new-media service, which flamed out more than a decade ago.

The mobile app lets you swipe through a personal feed based on your interests or top news stories or topics. You can also teach Inside what you are interested in by giving stories a thumbs-up or -down.

It’s available right now on the iPhone and BlackBerry with Android and iPad versions in the works.


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