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Quick Pitch: Hearsay is a social news reader where you share everything you read with anyone who follows you.
Genius Idea: An unfiltered, social reading exchange.
What we read says a lot about us. Thats why most of us selectively share the stories we think will reflect positively on us with our friends on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and so forth.
New startup Hearsay.it challenges us to stop this calculated sharing behavior, and instead start sharing everything we read in order to make the world of news reading all the more enjoyable.
We think we can create a more interesting news ecosystem if we can convince users to share everything they read in exchange for being able to see what everyone else is reading, Hearsay co-founder John Duncan, a veteran of the news media business, asserts.
Duncan and his two co-founders have assembled San Francisco-based team to encourage online readers to open up and share everything its an almost identical mission to the one Facebook put forth with ticker and the new Open Graph.
Think of the Hearsay experience as the RSS reader reinvented, but masterfully designed so that it works for folks who dont know what RSS is. Its capable of satisfying even the most voyeuristic tendencies of online denizens. You sign up, start following other users, topics and news sources, and your news stream becomes filled with the stories your friends are reading. Everything you read, in turn, is exposed to your followers.
What were saying is: Dont worry about approving of what you read when you share it. Just read it and let everyone see what you read, and leave it at that, explains Duncan. Let the hard work be done by the consumer rather than the producer.
Hearsays interface is fresh and visually stimulating. The web application highlights user avatars and news sources in the left-most column, with a feed of stories appearing in the center. Your stories are sourced from the items your friends are reading or pulled from one of the outlets you follow. You can click around to view different perspectives on the news of the day and select the grid icon to turn the single column setup into a more meaty three-column news adventure.
In some respects, Hearsay is bit like iPad app News.me for the web, except with a predilection for only showing stories that the people you follow have actually read. And Duncan even likens it to Flipboard, albeit with a focus on the desktop over mobile. The desktop, he argues, is where a majority of folks are consuming their news.
Unfortunately (for the reader, but not the publisher), Hearsay only pulls in article summaries, so if you want to read an entire story, youll have to click through to the source.
Where Hearsay struggles most is in the people discovery department. A user who signs up will likely find none of her Facebook friends to follow, and that means a lonely experience and a bad first impression.
Should you stick with the social news reader a bit longer and poke around the Global tab or check out the communities however, you might find people, topics and sources to follow. Following just a few active readers or your favorite publications will add a spectrum of color to the overall experience and the startups automatic-sharing hook will start to make sense.
Our verdict on Hearsay: Give it a day or two. You might feel liberated and find your news reading habits change for the better.
Hearsay has raised $100,000 in angel funding.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kyoshino
Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.
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