Recently on Quora, I posted an answer to the question “What is the revenue model of apps like News In Shorts?

I am posting my answer for readers of this blog.

I dont think News In Shorts (NiS) has a revenue model in mind. In fact I am not sure they will ever arrive at a B2C rev model. There is possibly a B2B model – they could have a white label service for bloomberg / reuters / yahoo and be acquired by them (or perhaps even by a platform like facebook). A similiar player – summly was acquired by yahoo.

News is a large space with lots of problems to solve. This has arisen due to the trifecta of a new generation of readers (millenials) who are discovering news and taking to consumption (with no institutional memory or habit of old consumption – print / newspapers), social as the primary news discovery route and mobile as the news consumption platform (this is via What are they thinking? Bloomberg’s Justin Smith sees a window in shakeup of digital reader habits, and not my original idea).

This trifecta leads to several frictions in the market – news / content creation friction (twitter, snapchat, meerkat all attacking it),  news discovery friction (facebook / twitter attacking it), news consumption friction (buzzfeed attacking it from a format perspective – listicles, quizzes making it easy to consume whereas news summarizing apps attacking it from a speed of consumption point of view).

Thus you can see each news startup as attacking a particular friction. (Twitter is special because it attacks two big frictions – creation + discovery – and that is also its bane because it doesnt know which to focus on.) The challenge for startups is to look at frictions which consumers are willing to pay to overcome. Now this is where it gets interesting. Consumers are very reluctant to pay to overcome news frictions (why they are is an entirely different topic altogether!), and are willing to live with sub-optimal solutions. Of course there are exceptions – financial news etc…

And this is where I see challenges for a News in Shorts from a B2C angle. For general news, I dont see a consumer willing to invest money to read news summaries, especially because the fat tail of news consumers / junkies are not bothered by the length of the content. Their key friction is news discovery / not news consumption.

The other issue with NiS is scale. Human writing is indeed better than machine writing but considerably more expensive…It may make sense in certain fields but not with say celebrity / sports content. A Narrative Science can easily create a product that can summarize most content passably.

Still, we must commend NiS for doing a good job thus far. They also have Tiger Global as well as the Bansals of Flipkart as investors. So I am sure they will do well for themselves.


(1) One of the NiS founders reached out to me after reading one of my posts News Summarizing – The latest, hottest online news startup trend! This was well over 2 yrs back. I did have a chat with them, though I dont remember our conversation clearly.

(2) Times Internet, which is a company in the Times Group, where I work, has invested in NiS. I have no connections with Times Internet, and had nothing to do with the deal.