Mobile news consumption meets social. A talk with FLUD founders Bobby and Matthew.

There’s no doubt about it. The publishing industry is booming. There’s news all around us that must be covered, and there are people that want to read it. Simple, right? Wrong. The workload of life has tremendously increased, but for some reason there are still only 24 hours in a day. This means that content consumption needs a helper. The smartphones and the tablets came in and did what they could. They allowed us to consume our daily dose of news and other media on the go, but the readers wanted something better. They wanted a dedicated source. FLUD wanted to be that source — and now they are for some people.

FLUD? I think you mean flood.

Bobby Ghoshal and Matt Ausonio wanted to work together for a little while, so they decided to build a news application on the side. However, the idea kind of rested at that. But, when the iPad launched, they soon realized that news on the go was going to be a big deal. According to Ghoshal,”news-readers were kind of hot and we just said hey, what are you doing tonight? Want to build an app?”

Bobby quickly put together a prototype, the two liked it, and within a month they launched Flud v1.0. As for the name, there’s some speculation behind it. However, I think it went something like this: For half an hour, Bobby was throwing out crappy names. Barton Smith, their friend, got irritated and yelled out FLUD, or something like that. Although he was joking, Bobby thought it was fantastic and the name stuck. The response to the name was great, but a woman whose profession revolves around names wrote an entire piece on how much she hated the name. Now, someone else might sunk into their founder seat and sobbed, but ”when a professional takes the time to write a really long blog post about your company’s name, you’ve done a good job.” Ghoshal and Ausonio took the criticism, moved on, and here they are today, on the brink of releasing a major upgrade to their application.

What makes Flud different than the rest?

News reader apps are in abundance. You have Pulse and Reeder, and then you have news magazine apps like Zite, Flipboard, and AOL’s Editions. So what made Ghoshal and Ausonio think that they could possibly enter the crowded party and get noticed? After all, there’s not much difference you can portray between two news readers. Apps are similar, the UIs are similar, and the content is the same, right? Well, it seems that the Flud team put their focus on the content and the way it reads rather than just trying to keep up with what the competition was doing with their apps. They’ve now also partnered with AOL to display its six top blogs in a pretty unique way. They’ve put emphasis on pictures and logos, and have also divided the content providers into three tiers.

  • Tier 1 is NY Times, WallStreet Journal, CNN, etc.
  • Tier 2 is TechCrunch, Macgasm, Mashable, Engadget and the rest.
  • Tier 3 is the blog your noisy neighbor started about fish yesterday.

From there, the company tackles each tier one by one to bring you, the user, the best content in the most visibly appealing manner possible. Now isn’t that just nice? Flud is also attempting to solve another problem — the lonely experience of reading news. Yes, some will argue that there are social elements within news content. You have things like Storify, tweeted links, and of course the comments — but that’s as far as it goes. Where is the whole sense of community? The conversation between people about one article that inspired or infuriated them? Do people really want to be social while they’re reading the news?

Ghoshal has an answer, and you can tell he’s passionate about where social news sharing and news in general is heading:

[quote]Much like how people love to share their music playlists, or their photos on Facebook, or their favorite YouTube videos because their taste says something about them… the same can be said about what you read. Everyone wants to be the first to read something and influence what their friends read as well. It’s fun and it gives you credibility.[/quote]

But the real question here is whether or not people actually want to share their news socially, and then have a profile built on what they consume. How often do readers click a social sharing button? Is music and news analogous in today’s world? We’re not certain it is. After all, most of us are pretty quick to make music recommendations to people, but speaking from experience here at Macgasm, only a small percentage of people actually click on the social sharing icons. But that’s where Flud also services things up  a little differently than most: “In Flud we sort of meet users halfway. We don’t expect them to tweet and we don’t expect them to share 100% of the content they read, but if they like something they can simply “Flud” their followers by touching the heart icon … all the stuff you Flud is public. If I looked at Joshua Schnell’s Flud, it’s an instant curated page of the best content that you thought was interesting. You now become a news source for me.”  It sounds a lot like the influenced become influencers in the next major release of Flud. A site like Macgasm may influence a  particular reader, but from there the influencer can then influence those people who don’t read our content. That’s pretty cool.

What’s coming?

Like a lot of startups, there’s a real pressure to focus on creating verticals and revenue streams that line the coffers of investors and owners, but when it comes to Flud, the focus is somewhere else right now:

[quote]Making money for us? That’s not the focus. We’ve got a longer roadmap for 2012. We’re just showing the world the tip of the iceberg of what we’re building. We’re building an entire network for news. In late 2010 and early 2011, we were just all about consumption, but now we’re fusing consumption with social and bringing it together in a really cool way.[/quote]

There’s a reason why app version names come with decimals. A quick change, a bug fix, or removal of a feature will result in a 1.2.3.456 etc. Why? Well, because not much was changed. The reason why these decimals go on forever is to give the developer more and more time to reinvent their product. This glorious occasion simultaneously occurs when the version number goes from 1.x.x to 2.0. FLUD, currently at 1.1.6 (not too shabby), is preparing to bring you v2.0. Clean name, right? As for the details, I won’t go into them too much, simply because I don’t want to ruin the surprise; however, what I can tell you is that this San Diego based startup wants to do something that hasn’t been done before, and it looks great. If you’re looking for proof in the pudding, just stop and think about what a truly social news aggregating application could mean for the industry on a whole. If it’s done right, it could be a game changer.

What can we take away?

Ghoshal and Ausonio have shown that you can enter a room filled with veterans of the trade and make your mark. It’s not a matter of the room being too full. No, no, no. When you enter a space with the sole goal to be noticed, trust me — you will be noticed. All you have to do is bring something interesting to the table. Come next week, the Flud team will be bringing a Christmas bag filled with even more goodies. We can’t wait.

Past Interviews:

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