Can NowThis News Crack Mobile Video?

News clearly needs a healthy dose of reinvention. NowThis News is an ambitious attempt to do just that with news video made for a mobile world.

NowThis, founded by former Huffington Post execs Ken Lerer and Eric Hippeau and backed by $5 million in venture capital, plays to the sensibilities of an always-on, always-social, always-sharing audience. It delivers professionally produced video news content in short bursts as well as longer segments on mobile devices. There are video clips from other networks, meme-worthy videos and repackaged news stories. The typical NowThis video: a one-to-two minute clip that mixes NowThis hosts with licensed video content.

“The idea came as Ken and I were tossing around thoughts in mobile news,” said Hippeau. “It was evident there was no video news, breaking news, that was created in video format just for mobile devices.”

NowThis is one of a few startups attempting to rethink the news business for the mobile era. Circa, for instance, is creating bite-size news made for a mobile experience. Quartz, the Atlantic’s new business publications, claims it is “mobile-first.”

That’s not to say NowThis is all tech. It has real editorial chops, hiring former CNN exec Eason Jordan, former ABC News Digital executive producer Ed O’Keefe and former Washington Post executive director of digital news Katharine Zaleski. It boasts a team of 30 editorial and technical employees. The company has a studio at its offices in New York. On Election night, it pumped out 25 pieces of content, such as President Obama’s victory speech and a clip highlighting post-election jubilation in Times Square in 2008 and 2012. The goal is to regularly do 15-20 videos per day.

And while it has yet to reach out to advertisers, buyers are paying attention to NowThis. Like other startups, NowThis looks to be creating an audience, and once that audience is of significant scale, it’ll go to marketers and advertisers to turn that audience into revenue.

“It’s a smart move for this company to find the habits of the connected consumer,” said Sal Candela, director of mobile at PHD. “Everything we see here, if you follow trends, social sharing is one of best forms of content discovery, [and] mobile usage is skyrocketing and commanding attention. Through the increased connectivity, we’re seeing digital video grow to new levels. This is intriguing and NowThis is one of the companies to capitalize on what the connected consumer is seeing. We’re keeping an eye on them.”

With major publishers — the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, for example — moving head-strong into the online and mobile video arenas, the competition for eyeballs and ad dollars, especially for a startup, is that much greater.

“It’s an intriguing experiment and something that mimics and mirrors habits of this connected consumer, and that’s why it’s exciting to watch what they do,” said Candela.

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