EMBARGO 1/25 @ 6 a.m. ET: Raftr is a social network for news

Why it issues to you

Raftr is a brand new social community from Yahoo president Sue Decker with a robust concentrate on information.

Twitter’s ephemeral nature makes it an ideal platform for breaking information, however not so nice for one-on-one conversations. Fb has develop into a spotlight reel of the triumphs in our lives, like partying at a rooftop bar on New Years. Snapchat’s a behind-the-scenes, barely extra personal reel. And Instagram’s a community of skinny relationships with individuals that you simply don’t actually know all that properly.

However Raftr, the imaginative and prescient of former Yahoo government Sue Decker, is totally different. It’s a “dialog platform” targeted on “unfolding tales” — a social community that makes it simpler for individuals to comply with, talk about, and share their pursuits.

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“It’s speaking about tales with household or pals in a enjoyable and curated approach,” she stated in an interview on the Digital Developments’ workplaces in New York. “It’s about following developments.”

Decker, a pc science main and Harvard Enterprise Faculty graduate, is aware of a factor or two about social media. She reduce her tooth younger, serving as president of Yahoo beneath Jerry Yang. After leaving the troubled net big in 2009, she performed an lively position on the boards of Costco, Intel, Berkshire Hathaway, and LegalZoom. And in 2016, she joined the board of NBCUniversal-backed on-line media firm Vox.

Decker’s dive into the information enterprise started even earlier, throughout her early life at Yahoo. In 2006, she helped type a consortium of seven newspaper chains representing 176 day by day papers throughout the nation, with the lengthy-time period objective of tagging and optimizing the newspapers’ content material for indexing by Yahoo.

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In some methods, Raftr is the embodiment — and the extension — of that imaginative and prescient. It’s organized across the concept of tales. Customers comply with ongoing tales — or “rafts,” in Raftr’s vernacular — on which they will remark with like-minded individuals concerning the day’s developments.

The hierarchy’s loosely impressed by the social conduct of Raftr’s cute animal mascot, the otter. “Otters journey in rafts — social teams of two to one hundred that float collectively,” Decker stated. “On Raftr, these teams comprise individuals who share passions in widespread.”

Raftr organizes tales round these rafts. Some, just like the Politics raft, are essentially broad in scope. However others, like Black Lives Matter, are a bit of extra well timed. And nonetheless others emerge perennially with the start of TV seasons (The Bachelor, Billions) and sports activities seasons (NFL Inexperienced Bay Packers).

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All of them inhabit the Uncover tab, an amalgamation of lively Raftr tales. Current updates seem in a horizontal carousel on the prime, above an inventory of Trending Tales. An inventory of Trending Individuals, or topics who’ve appeared most often in rafts in the course of the previous week, populates beneath it.

They’re organized by Seasons up to date with common Blogcasts, or weekly digests penned by Raftr’s cadre of curators. They function an aggregation of developments, summaries, and hyperlinks to associated protection from publications like The New York Occasions and The Wall Road Journal. Every begins with key quotes from individuals of curiosity and conclude with what Decker calls “questions of intrigue,” dialogue prompts designed to immediate partaking conversations.

Customers can touch upon blogcasts and reply to others, or advocate feedback utilizing a Reddit-like system of upvoting and downvoting. Or alternatively, they will share posts with pals on Fb, Twitter, Google+.

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There’s extra to Raftr’s social scene then feedback, in fact. Inside any given raft, there’s a stream of posts akin to Fb’s Information Feed. A contextual search device recommends related information articles, movies, tweets, and other people — posting within the The White Home raft, for instance, surfaces articles concerning the presidency and politicians like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Different members of the identical raft can reply to these posts with content material or react with emoji.

A Join tab, in the meantime, offers a no-frills technique of chatting with fellow raft members. International chatrooms hooked up to rafts let individuals ship and reply to messages in actual-time, stream-of-consciousness format.

There’s a twist on the chatroom conference within the type of chatbots. Raftr, very similar to Fb Messenger, will play host to artificially clever ‘bots that reply to instructions. One, Footbotter, sources historic statistics from forty,000 soccer video games to reply questions like “What was the highest-scoring Inexperienced Bay Packer’s recreation in 1977?” and “Who scored probably the most touchdowns final week?” And much more impressively, it may predict the result of video games with 70 % accuracy, Decker stated.

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Profiles are a easy affair. From Raftr’s Profile tab, customers can change out their picture, edit their biography, add an e mail tackle, and depart and be a part of rafts. They will share private messages with pals, too, and hold abreast of lately up to date rafts.

Crafting a social community round information, some may argue, is swimming in harmful waters. Information may be fraught with controversy, is the final U.S. election cycle is any indication. Feelings run excessive. And the web’s anonymity can allow abusers. Situations of trolling and cyberbullying led Instagram and YouTube to introduce new instruments late final yr aimed particularly at curbing abuse.

After which, there’s the difficulty of faux information. Fb went as far as to enlist reality checkers from the nonpartisan Ponyter institute to assessment probably unfaithful tales, and Snapchat and Google are amongst a rising record of web giants which have rolled out instruments to fight deceptive sources.

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Decker stated that Raftr’s safeguards are designed to head off cyberbullying earlier than it will get out of hand. Customers should confirm their telephone quantity so as to join an account, making certain a measure of culpability for the content material they publish. And feedback might be flagged for a curator to assessment.

Raftr’s “gatekeeper” strategy to information, in the meantime, will forestall the unfold of false tales. Decker stated the community’s curators, lots of which have backgrounds in information, completely verify the veracity of tales earlier than linking to them. And to those that could be inclined accuse the community’s curators of advocating viewpoints or advancing causes, Decker stated that Raftr’s individualized strategy to suggestions precludes the potential for any Fb Trending Tales-fashion controversies.

“We don’t make suggestions for tales — we solely inform you what’s trending,” she stated. “We solely present you the place the excitement is true now.”

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Raftr’s been in beta for six months, however staff hopes to ramp up shortly within the coming weeks and months. They hope to rent on curators and rafts as new customers come on-line. They plan to recruit bloggers and publication authors to pen unique content material. They usually’re creating cellular apps for Android and iOS.

However the velocity of enlargement will depend upon funding. Raftr’s raised $2 million up to now, and although it’s begun to monetize some content material with inline show advertisements in blogcasts, it’s principally depending on enterprise capital.

Decker’s betting on a important mass of latest followers to drive progress. The workforce plans to recruit prime “influencers” from Twitter and Fb to encourage new signal-ups and promote the platform’s trending tales.

“We now have a strong plan,” she stated.

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“Raftr is addressing an necessary viewers of people that have develop into fatigued by the over-abundance of content material from their networks,” Jerry Yang, an early investor, stated. “Social media connections are essential to progressing mental debate, however these conversations can’t happen if they’re buried by extraneous noise. We consider Raftr is the way forward for partaking round personally related and informative content material.”

Time will inform whether or not that’s sufficient to draw customers away from Fb, Twitter, and the half dozen different social networks which have an enormous head begin.

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