TikTok has revolutionized the way people consume and share information. Now a startup called Vilo wants to take the short video format a step further and let users share their thoughts on sports, current affairs and other news categories by filming themselves.
My initial reaction to the idea was, why do you need to share news commentary through 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 that the future of news is in videos. “We look forward to building the kingdom of news and discourse and what news platforms will look like in the near future,” he said in an interview with businessroundups.org.
Developed by a team in the US, the Netherlands and Ukraine, Vylo combines news aggregation and video-driven social media. The home tab contains a news stream curated from major publications and curated by an internal team. Below each story is an option to add someone’s video reaction. For those who don’t feel comfortable showing faces, audio is also an option.
A big VC name guarantees Vylo. Kleiner Perkins Fairchild Fund IV led the startup’s $2 million pre-seed round that recently closed. Other investors in the round included Target CEO Brian Cornell; Ryan Howard, a 3x Major League Baseball All-Star; Curt Shi of Welinder Shi Capital; 8808 Ventures, the venture firm of Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse; angel investors among others.
One of the appeals of video-based news discourse is that it adds a human touch, Reynolds argued. “You and I and eight other friends go to lunch and we talk about everything from COVID to Joe Biden to travel to whatever because we are each other’s trusted resources. There are those moments that we always have… We could recreate those moments with a technical platform.”
User-generated video commentary is nothing new, but Reynolds thinks the barrier to entry is too high on existing channels like YouTube, where users must first eloquently and concisely summarize the news. Vylo, on the other hand, allows creators to simply give their two-minute opinion on a news item that already exists in the app, an aspect the founder says lowers the bar for news commentary.
In effect, Vylo visualizes the response section on traditional news sites and democratizes video commentary.
The “social” aspect of Vylo is the “Trending” tab that displays popular video and audio commentaries ranked by their “insight,” similar to how readers rate comments on traditional news websites. For a more personalized news feed, users can create their own “Newsstand” by following different outlets and topics. Comments are vetted by third-party content moderation provider Hive before they go live.
Break with the past
Twitter has long been the world’s digital public square, but as Elon Musk rocks the social media giant, upset users are leaving in droves.
Nevertheless, Vylo does not intend to become a Twitter alternative like Mastodon. “It’s like a bunch of dogs chasing tails,” Reynolds said. “Everyone is focused on the here and now. But our technology and technology platforms will evolve. We have no interest in being a Twitter competitor. We look much further into the future of these things.
“An important note is the factor of people showing their faces and making their voices heard. That’s something that we’re really not afraid of rolling out now because it’s going to be a mainstay very soon,” he added.
“I think the future of news is decentralized,” suggested Welinder Shi Capital’s Shi, noting Vylo’s participatory nature. “The young generation doesn’t really get their news from news sites anymore. They’re on Twitter and Instagram, but these platforms aren’t primarily for news, so there’s a gap that needs to be filled.”
Vylo launched its public beta a few weeks ago and has attracted over 500 users. Monetization isn’t on the agenda, but when the time comes, the startup is considering a number of options, including an ad-free user subscription, a monetization model with content creators, and helping paywalled publications get subscriptions. stimulate from where it can take a cut.