Reduce and Execute
At the end of 2011 we had to think about our core feature. During the previous months we have developed a number of features, most of which had little to do with our core concept. There were, for example:
- The magazine system
- The embeddable Magazine Blogs
- Favorizing and subscribing with folder-like management
- The promoter for the posting of status updates and tweets (brilliantly realized by bufferapp.com)
- Comments with marker functions
- A short message service that we have never released
- And many more..
We followed a wrong track in micromanagement and produced many mediocre things, instead following down one clear road.We have now left behind this disease, which typically occurs within startups. In the past months we have started focussing on the bare essentials. Anything off this road has been outsourced to external companies. This allowed us to draw all our attention to the one thing that truly matters: the needs of you, our users.
The chicken-egg problem
If one wants to start a page with two different user groups, who are depending on one another, it is called a Marketplace concept. You might have also heard about the "chicken and egg problem", that needs to be solved.
Andreas Klinger from Lookk recently said:
There is no chicken and egg problem. There is always a group that is attracted by the other.
In our case it would probably be the reader. If a page generates a lot of traffic, we will happily write on it - features for better writing are of secondary importance, especially in the beginning.
So, how do you get many readers to a site? You create something that makes reading fun: The new-Newsgrape topics.
With the semantic company YOOR, we have build a system that gives users the ability to build their perfect news portal based on their interests and preferred sources.
You could say: I like sports, despite show-jumping and badminton, and I like to read the Guardian, the Mirror and the NYT. Using only this information, you will then get the perfect news, tailored to your demands. For every article you read on Newsgrape, you can find additional interesting articles by diving deeper into the topic, and discussing the article with other users. If a comment is not enough, you can write a response article or counter statement with Newsgrape, which will be linked to the article for others to read.
Focus - partners make your life easier
We have already addressed the problem of dealing with too many projects. With this upcoming relaunch, we have been asking ourselves this question: how can we make our users happy and follow their wishes, without tripping over the small stuff? The answer is simple: with external partners.
We have managed to set up partnerships with some of our favorite development teams.
Vonautomatisch – A design company from Vienna, which takes over our redesign. Patrick and Axel have the motto "Real web designer write their own code." They don't just deliver mockup pages drawn in Photoshop but perfectly structured, clean code.
Our technical design challenge was to target unite a "modern, simple design with the playful look of a community". What they have provided us with, is the interactive image of an awesome newspaper with retro look and a brilliant read. We love it and think that you will love it too.
YOOR - a New York based software company focused on extracting semantics, helped us build our topic system. Bernhard Angerer, the chief developer of SBSGRID, an incredible semantic database solution, developed for us a stripped down startup version with his company YOOR, which we can upgrade to the more performant SBSGRID system at any time. Thanks to these guys, every Newsgrape user will soon have his own perfect news site.
Aloha Editor – The development team of Gentics has one of the most promising text editors on the market, which allows you to edit content directly in the page view. They have already pledged to support us during the installation and development of certain features. We still need to wait until June, as the editor will only then be technically integrated. (for the technicians: ExtJS is then replaced by jQuery UI).We are looking forward to the editor and ask for your patience.
Stefan Kröner – The developer of our friends at GeoLad builds for us a WordPress plugin that can connect with all users of a WordPress blog, and synchronize all their articles directy with Newsgrape. Thanks for your help, Stefan!
With our new approach we were able to close our first actual round of funding. This includes the Milan investment company „99 Fahrenheit“ and some individual private investors from Vienna who have supported our project for a while now. This way, we have raised over 150,000 € in seed funding.
With this investment we are now able to operate properly for quite some time with a larger team and some more servers.
To keep the ship on track even beyond that, Leo is moving to San Francisco for at last three months to prepare the next round of funding. Good Luck, Mr. Fasbender!
The other side of the coin - small and large changes
As we are repositioning ourselves, there are some changes that are of particular importance for our writers.
1.) Article Types: Since we will link all articles with each other, we need to know which ones are real and which are fiction. We don't want to the have poems about Angela Merkel linked with genuine, informative articles about Angela Merkel.
Therefore there will be two types of articles: Opinion and Fiction. Opinions are linked to other partner's articles via tags. Fiction is a separate menu iterm, as we have it today.
2.) Magazine: One of the major points of the development of Newsgrape have always been the magazines. Before driving down our new clear road, we asked ourselves: "What can we do better than anyone else". For collaborative writing WordPress is simply the better solution, and would we really go on with the magazine system, we would have to refocus on CMS like software - not exactly our core focus.
To make them profitable would be extremely difficult, but over 14% of all websites are already built in WordPress, which is free.We therefore ask all magazine owners to save any magazine related data (descriptions, images, etc.) during April, as these will no longer be available after the relaunch.
3.) Banners: User who have Google Adsense advertising set up in their articles may have to adjust some of the sizes for the redesign. The option to advertise will, however, still be available.
4.) Newsgrape Topics in English: At the beginning, the Newsgrape-Topics will be in English only, but only for a couple of weeks. We first want to iron out any bugs before introducing multiple new languages to the system. Your articles in German or other languages are of course still available - we will try to follow suit as quickly as possible with more languages for the Topic System.
More than anything else, the farewell of all the magazines was very difficult, as we've been working on them for many months. We are sure, however, that this is the better choice for the time, in order to focus on the functions that promote the overall Newsgrape.
We know that change is not always perceived positively - should you have any questions or suggestions, you can reach us via commenting or e-mail.
The Launch will happen in early May.
Felix, Leo, Bernard, Luis, Flo, Thomas and the entire team Newsgrape.