TikTok has revolutionized the way people consume and share information. Now, a startup called Vylo wants to take the short video format one step further, letting users share their thoughts on sports, current events, and other news categories by filming themselves speaking.
My first reaction to the idea was: Why do you need to share news commentary over video clips? Can’t it just happen in the text based comment section of the New York Times or other news websites?
Tyler Reynolds, Founder and CEO of Vylo believes the future of news is in video. “We look forward to building the realm of news and discourse and what news platforms will look like in the near future,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch.
Developed by a team in the US, Netherlands and Ukraine, Vylo combines news aggregation and video-driven social media. The Home tab features a range of news curated from major publications and curated by an in-house team. Under each story there is an option to add your own video response. For those who aren’t comfortable showing faces, audio is also an option.
A big VC name vouches for Vylo. Kleiner Perkins Fairchild Fund IV led the startup’s recently closed $2 million pre-seed round. Other investors on the round included Brian Cornell, CEO of Target; Ryan Howard, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star; Curt Shi of Welinder Shi Capital; 8808 Ventures, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse’s venture firm; among other angel investors.
One of the appeals of video-based news discussion is that it adds a human touch, Reynolds argued. “Her and I and eight other friends go out to lunch and we talk about everything from COVID to Joe Biden to travel whatever because we’re each other’s trusted sources. There are those moments that we have all the time… We could recreate those moments with a tech platform.”
User-generated video comments are nothing new, but Reynolds thinks the barrier to entry is too high on existing channels like YouTube, where users first have to eloquently and concisely summarize the news. With Vylo, on the other hand, developers can simply give their two-minute opinion on a news article that already exists in the app, an aspect the founder believes will lower the bar for news commentary.
In fact, Vylo visualizes the reply area on traditional news sites and democratizes video commenting.
The “social” aspect of Vylo is the “Trends” tab, which displays popular video and audio comments ranked by their “insightfulness,” much like how readers favor comments on traditional news sites. For a more personalized news overview, users can create their own “kiosk” by following different outlets and topics. Comments are reviewed by third-party content moderator Hive before they go live.
Break away from the past
Twitter has long been the world’s digital public space, but as Elon Musk takes the social media giant on its head, disgruntled users are leaving the company in droves.
Still, Vylo doesn’t plan to be a Twitter alternative like Mastodon. “It’s like a bunch of dogs chasing tails,” Reynolds said. “Everyone focuses on the here and now. But our technology and technology platforms will evolve. We have no interest in being a competitor to Twitter. We’re looking much further into the future of these things.
“An important note is the factor that people show their faces and show their voices. We’re really not afraid to roll that out now because it’s going to be a mainstay very soon,” he added.
“I think the future of news is decentralized,” Welinder Shi Capital’s Shi suggested, citing Vylo’s participatory nature. “The younger generation doesn’t really get their news from news sites anymore. They’re on Twitter and Instagram, but those platforms aren’t primarily for news, so there’s a void that needs to be filled.”
Vylo launched its public beta a few weeks ago and attracted over 500 users. Monetization isn’t on its immediate agenda, but when the time comes, the startup is considering a few options, including an ad-free user subscription, a revenue-sharing model with content creators, and support for paywall publishing to encourage subscriptions from which it can make a cut.