Inside Betaworks, or the Future of Media Distribution

Betaworks describes itself as “a company that builds companies,” but really it’s a start-up incubator and the most interesting media technology company at the moment. Lately, it has scooped up a bevvy of smaller companies.

bw_gearsWe know they are working on a Google Reader replacement. It bought the much-maligned Digg last year and gave the site a nice facelift, doing the impossible — it revived a dead corpse and made it better. Last month, the company bought a majority stake in Marco Arment’s Instapaper, a best in class read-it-later app with an incredibly devoted user-base.

Those products focus on the distribution side of media, but they have other horses in the stable:

  • Combined with other popular Betaworks products focused on analytics, namely,, SocialFlow, and Chartbeat, and what they have is a set of modern publishing tools based on data and distribution.
  • Digg’s importance can’t be understated because it’s now the consumer-facing portal to slurp all that media down. Really, Betaworks has the chance the turn Digg into a classier version of BuzzFeed that isn’t reliant on advertising because it sells those data and distribution tools to other media companies.
  • They also built an addictive iOS game called Dots, which scored a million downloads within a week, and will be used as a Trojan Horse for learning about user-engagement that can be applied to its other products.
  • It’s incredibly time consuming to find mobile video entertainment worth watching. Mostly, watching video on mobile is relegated to amateur YouTube videos of cats. Telecast aims to solve that problem by delivering users three 5-minute bursts of high quality, personally tailored video every day.

Further down the line, the company wants to figure out how to package those tools to help publishers produce and distribute better content (a partnership with WordPress/Tumblr seems obvious), help readers discover that content and read it in an optimal setting, and finally, help those publishers in turn make more money.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Betaworks comes out with a publishing API that hooks into their Google Reader, but also one publishers can use to distribute their river of news in a standardized, modern way. Anyway, Betaworks is definitely a company to keep an eye on. They are compiling some really fascinating pieces that could lead to big things.

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