Summly: The future of news?

Yahoo’s purchase of a mobile software app company provides a payday for technology that summarizes the news in a user-friendly way.

Last October, Boise tech company Balihoo hosted an informal session with Boulder entrepreneur Brad Feld when he came to town to keynote the Idaho Innovation Awards. About a hundred people crowded the room to hear Feld speak about ways to build Boise’s entrepreneurial culture as detailed in his book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.

Feld’s basic ideas have already inspired local entrepreneurs to create gathering places to discuss launching companies and other initiatives. Most recently, Pat Lawless, CEO of Boise’s Voxbright Technologies, is using Feld’s book as a blueprint to launch startupboise April 4.

Two of Feld’s points during his “Beers with Brad” session rose to the surface for me. The first was to get the audience to raise the volume on the Treasure Valley’s startup culture by using social media to “get noisy Boise” in the Twitterverse and elsewhere. The second was an off-the-cuff comment Feld made about news content. He said that he only skims the headlines as he didn’t have time to delve into the specifics of an article.

Feld isn’t alone in how he reads the news. The internet has disrupted the daily newspaper industry, leading to its decline. And traditional media outlets are wrestling with free versus subscription online models. These trends have created a market for news that’s delivered quickly, accurately, and concisely to smartphones, tablets, and PCs.

One company has already prospered by filling this market need. On March 25,Yahoo bought mobile software app company Summly for an undisclosed price rumored to be close to $30 million, according to AllThingsD. The London-based Summly uses a proprietary algorithm to summarize news articles into easily digestible chunks. Not bad for the founder, a young entrepreneur who is still in his teens.

There’s no question accurate and trusted content will continue to be a valuable asset for traditional media. But how the industry grapples with ways to deliver that content to an increasingly mobile and fractured online audience is still a work in progress. Perhaps Summly’s technology is one way forward?


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