It used to be if you wanted to catch the 7 o'clock news, you'd have to be home in front of the TV. But the rise of mobile means video-based news no longer requires a specific block of time and your living room couch for you to watch—you can get snack-sized bites of news on the go as you get on with your day.
On NowThis, you can choose from a selection of original news segments across seven categories: Top Stories, Obama vs. Romney, Debates, Tech, Fun, Malala, and More, which largely covers international and foreign affairs. Each segment is short, with some spanning under a minute, which lets NowThis experiment with different genres and ways of producing content. For example, a video titled "An Appreciation of Electricity, Post-Sandy" is not a traditional news story. It's a minute-long, unnarrated timelapse of scenes from an electricity-driven city, from shots of the glowing skyline to the Ferris wheel at Coney Island.
The viewing experience on NowThis is quite smooth, with little to no lags in download time. At the end of each post, a share option pops up encouraging you to post the segment to Facebook, Twitter, or in an email. If you wait a few seconds or decide to skip the sharing, the next video will automatically start playing. It's a seemingly small but nice added touch that attempts to address one of the problems with mobile news apps: The demographic is easily distracted viewers. It's YouTube's channels strategy, which involves arranging collections of videos around different topics, combined with Netflix Instant's post-play feature that automatically starts streaming the next episode of a show for you while you're mid-marathon. Making the viewing experience on NowThis as passive as possible—in other words, requiring the viewer to do little more than open up the app, choose a video, and hit "play"—will be important to NowThis's success going forward.
Also important to NowThis's success will be cranking out lots of grade-A content to put in front of the viewer once he or she does hit "play." Building a news network of all-original videos from scratch is hard; keeping it humming with well-produced segments is even harder. In its current state, NowThis feels a bit like a fad app that could lose steam if it's not bolstered with a lot of high-quality stuff, especially after election coverage starts to die down. NowThis general manager and former CNN chief news exec Eason Jordan tells paidContent he believes roughly 20 to 25 videos a day should suffice for the average viewer.
[Image: Flickr user Gadget_Guru]