This Swedish startup wants to turn passive content consumers into active curators who have a real impact on the news. Hopefully this coupled with its latest partnership could expose people to news that gets ignored by mainstream media
Newstag, the Swedish startup that aims to give content consumers a more active role in selecting the video news we’re exposed to, has partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). This partnership will help raise awareness and highlight issues that are often ignored by mainstream media. It will also give the NGO access to an alternative fundraising channel by enabling viewers to support WFP causes through the Newstag site.
Using media to make a real-world impact
The idea is to use media to make a real-world impact by giving organizations like WFP a platform to shed light on stories that get no or little attention from traditional media. Why, for example, do we hear so little about Boko Haram and its impact on African communities? Newstag hopes that through collaborations with organizations like WFP, it can shift the media’s agenda and change the kind of content people consume. In addition to WFP, Newstag has signed partnerships with Earth Hour, Birdlife, Lien AID, Singapore Cancer Society, Flora Fauna, and others.
What differentiates Newstag from other media sources is that it aims to turn passive content consumers into pro-active curators of the news. Viewers can tag content and also have the option to create and distribute tag streams or news channels with handpicked content. This has an impact on the content other Newstag users are exposed to as the “Watched right now” and “Top news in English” feeds, for example, are determined by users. But beyond Newstag, this can help expose other people to content they might not ordinarily be exposed to through social media.
Newstag users also have the opportunity to allocate funds to any of the organizations and NGOs Newstag has partnered with such as WFP. The more active a user is in consuming and sharing content, the more points they have to vote for an organization. Newstag will then donate a portion of their revenues to the organizations based on the number of votes they get.
Interestingly, Newstag’s business model is based on what they call “contextual digital branding,” which gives NGOs the opportunity to be featured alongside content that represents their cause. They’re also exploring enabling viewers to donate to charities in the context of content viewed. A good example of this would be having the option to donate to charities operating in Nepal after viewing video news about the Nepalese earthquake.
What kind of impact will Newstag have?
Since the startup publicly launched in March 2015, it has grown rapidly. On average they publish about 350 videos daily from a range of sources including NGOs and news sources like Reuters, AFP, Bloomberg, CNN, SNTV and TechStorm. There are also about 20,000 weekly active users viewing and sharing content from the site. The startup has big plans for the near future, which include both a mobile and TV app, and is looking to raise a new round of funding in part to support these efforts. So far, the startup has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from a combination of private investors, the founders and VCs, and was awarded a Swedish innovation grant for $150,000.
While this may be impressive, it will take users some time to adapt to the idea. In trying to foster a culture of active content curators, they’re changing something fundamental about the way media has always worked. Henrik Eklund, Newstag CEO, explained, “We see Newstag as a complement to traditional media – we want to help bring perspectives, relevance and sustainability to the crippled media model.”
Victor Alexiev, Newstag co-founder, reiterated this point. “We hope that we open the door for a more value-network-based business model thinking, as well as more concern around the impact of popularity-based news reporting. We are not going after traditional models – we see an open space in video news, and we want to claim it.” Alexiev went on to say that they see themselves as the Spotify for video news with a strong emphasis on the social impact component. It will be interesting to see whether or not users take to the platform in the long run.