Can AI-powered summaries, timelines improve newsreading experience? Tenreads believes so
In this age of information overload, tracking news and stories can get quite complex. The Tenreads app aims to make it easier.
Living as we are on the ‘information superhighway’ or ‘infobahn’, the digital communication systems in our smartphones and desktops opens up new perspectives in the form of news and stories. According to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report, humans created 14-trillion gigabytes of information in 2017 and it is only going to grow.
So, for those of us who aren’t accustomed to skimming and have an idea of the kind of stories we want to consume, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the information overload.
Bengaluru-based Tenreads aims to solve this pain point by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to summarise important news stories and present them in more contextual forms.
With its mobile app, Tenreads aims to maximise reader engagement and revenue for publishers. In this week’s App Fridays, let’s explore Tenreads’ backstory.
The story so far
Tenreads was founded in July 2015 by Gokul Nath Sridhar, a BITS, Pilani–Hyderabad graduate, who started up while in college. He built a couple of products in the social space that, based on user feedback and an understanding of the sector, evolved into the current version of Tenreads.
The startup consists of five members, who handle all aspects of the venture. Sriram Murali Velamur, a Boston University alum, is the CTO and drives major architecture decisions and keeps the systems running. Manas Jayanth and Santosh Venkatraman are product engineers handling the front end and back end, respectively, while Sam Roberts looks after marketing and growth.
Talking to YourStory, Gokul, Founder, CEO of Tenreads, says, “If you don’t follow the news for a few days and suddenly start reading a story it is highly likely that you will not understand it because you don’t have all the context.”
This forces readers to refer to other sources to get up to speed. This is where Tenreads comes in, helping readers and publishers make better use of their time and track stories and topics more easily.
Tenreads started out by presenting the top 10 stories of the day, the goal being to curb information overload in terms of number of stories. But Tenreads found that their users would generally skip reading stories if they exceeded a certain word count. Since it was clearly bite-sized content that worked, the offering was accordingly tweaked. He says,
We built machine learning modules that read articles on specific topics and write summaries on their own.
So instead of serving up full stories, Tenreads dishes out automated summaries that paint an overall picture of the story and where possible also includes a ‘Timeline’ feature that touches upon key highlights of a complex ongoing story.
By summarising news from multiple sources, Tenreads also aims to move away from biases that people pick up by reading stories from only one source. So the goal is to leverage algorithms to deliver summaries, timelines, and perspectives that are automated.
How Tenreads works for...
On signing up, users are asked to pick out topics of interest to set up their newsfeeds. Then, users can access the top 10 stories across each section, each of which is constantly updated. Each story is accompanied by multiple sources from different publications. Gokul says,
We aim to surface the most important stories the world is talking about right now.
Gokul notes that today’s youth generally struggle to follow news and keep themselves up to date. He believes this is a problem that can be overcome with the right tech tools.
Tenreads currently offers its service free and the goal is to partner with publishers and provide them with APIs that could integrate the timeline feature into their content management systems.
According to Gokul, Tenreads’ Timelines currently operate at an accuracy of 80-85 percent, which, he believes, is extremely high for an AI system. Tenreads aims to work with publishers on a SaaS model and work with publications to increase the lifetime value of their stories.
Looking at Tenreads from the point of view of a casual reader, the app does provide an interesting reading experience with the top 10 stories, timeline feature, and multiple links to in-depth stories. One possible area of improvement is to make better use of colour schemes to differentiate between the summaries and back links at the end of stories. Also, customisation features like Nightmode and varied font sizes could enhance the end-user experience.
On the plus side, the ‘Switch Edition’ feature, which lets users switch between Indian and global versions of the app, is rather interesting.
Sector overview and future plans
Online media platforms currently report and churn out large volumes of content on a daily basis. But constantly reaching the right end consumers and earning revenues in this era of ad blockers is a challenge. News aggregator platforms like Flipboard and Indian players like InShorts, Way2News and Hike aim to cater relevant stories and news to readers based on their interests. Tenreads too aims to make its mark in this space by serving as a link between publishers and readers.
Gokul notes that he had raised an undisclosed angel round of funding for an earlier version of Tenreads. Since they have been frugal with funds so far, Tenreads currently has about 12 months of runway and the current focus isn’t on raising funds but on achieving product-market fit, expanding globally and onboarding more publishers as clients.
While the venture is named Tenreads and throws up 10 top stories across different sectors, Gokul says that they have got requests from users to increase this limit to a higher number. Even with the top 10 stories of that sector, the fear of missing out seems to be playing on the minds of many readers. This may necessitate a rebranding (Twentyreads?), something Gokul says they are actively considering.