Mobile users spend little time viewing web content on their mobile browsers, preferring to read most of it through their social networks. As a result, publishers are losing control of their content and users are overloaded with content sources.
That’s the basic problem that a Ponte Vedra, Florida-based startup called Life in Hi-Fi wants to solve, with the launch today of what it calls “hashtag sites.” These are, the company says, “portals to everything you love.”
The name is a bit misleading, since they aren’t actually web sites. Rather, they are interest-based or branded streams of content that you can follow in a RSS feed in a free Hi-Fi app, available today in the Apple App Store. (An Android version is in the works.)
Each “site” is marked by a hashtag, such as #summersports in a Sports category, defining what Hi-Fi also calls a Tag Topic.
To place their content into the RSS feed going into the Hi-Fi app, publishers, bloggers, and any other content creators sign up through the Hi-Fi Marketplace, also launched today. A hashtag site name can be obtained for $2.99/year, and the company compares it to registering a web site domain.
At launch, CEO and founder Winder Hughes told me, publishing partners include Bonnier Publishing and Outside TV, plus others whose names he couldn’t yet mention.
In addition to the publisher partners, some branded RSS feeds are pulled in to pre-populate the main feed, including Politico.com and Mashable. Any user can buy a hashtag site, and then curate content for that particular content stream. (See image on the top of this page.) The company reports there have been about 30,000 downloads of the Hi-Fi app during the nine-month beta period, and there are currently about 2,000 active users.
For the first year of operation, content providers will keep all of their ad-generated revenue. Beginning in the second year, Hi-Fi will offer CPM-based ads through Google’s AdMob, Twitter’s MoPub, and directly-sold ads via DoubleClick for Publishers, with content makers receiving what the company said could be as much as half the revenue. There may also be some revenue split from the ads presented by partnering publishers.
When a user opens the Hi-Fi app — which the company likens to a kind of “mobile browser” — they see categories, which they can follow. There are currently 50 set categories, such as Finance, Tech, Travel, or Football.
The default view is a combined feed of all categories. Users can also search for specific hashtags within each category or across the entire feed. The platform doesn’t learn your content preferences, but content that is rated highly through user feedback surfaces higher in the feed.
At least at first, Hi-Fi staff are moderating the feed for issues like obscenity, but Hughes said they might eventually utilize tech solutions for that task.
The Marketplace contains built-in content creation tools for posting text, adding links to web sites, shooting and capturing video, creating gif animation, and live video streaming.
About 300 generic hashtags are reserved as house accounts, such as #fishing, #golf, and #baseball. While content providers cannot claim a hashtag containing a trademark they don’t own, there is otherwise no screening to make sure two hashtags are dissimilar.