Can you charge people money for helping them figure out what they ought to read on the Web?
Me too, says Sandeep Ayyappan. His Wiser startup has raised about a million dollars so far, and is launching this week. Like Hirschhorn, he thinks there’s real value in curating all of the free reading material out there on the Internet, and wants to charge for it.
But unlike Hirschhorn, Ayyappan is not employing human curators to do the work. He thinks a combination of software and your co-workers can do the job.
Ayyappan is pitching Wiser as a workplace tool for companies that want to let co-workers share reading material with each other. The idea is that each Wiser user will see their own feed of work-related stories, culled in part by an algorithm and in part by other employees, who will suggest stories they think their colleagues should read.
Wiser will offer different bells and whistles, like the ability to annotate the text, depending on the payment tier. Ayyappan is offering a free version, one that costs a company $49 a month, and a deluxe package that will go for $499 a month.
Ayyappan used to do this kind of curation himself, when he put together an energy tech investor newsletter for RBC Capital Markets. His backers include Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters; the New York Times is also an investor, via its TimeSpace incubator.
There’s a decent chance that if you’re reading this site, you’re the kind of person who spends a bunch of time on Twitter and other social platforms, and that you think you’re doing a pretty good job of curating your own feed. Then again, there are fewer of us out there than we might think. And lots of companies either publish internal newsletters or pay for clipping services, so perhaps Ayyappan can pick up part of that market.
But then again, isn’t sorting through links and helping people find stuff, based on their interest and their social graph, exactly the kind of thing that Twitter ought to be doing itself? Especially if it wants to help make the case that it’s a mainstream product? If they want help, Ayyappan says, he’s able and willing.
“At many workplaces, being social isn’t natural, but paying attention to news and sharing valuable information is,” he said. “We think we can be the primary platform at these, and we’ll happily integrate with partners at the others.”