Get current with raftr!

I have always been of the view that the things we do on the web are an extension of the way we live, the way we work, the things we love. As our world becomes more complex and people become more sophisticated, our core desires remain simple: we all want to get more out of our lives and connect with people that care about the same things we do. That's why we created raftr, introduced today.

Raftr is a unique and timely communications platform designed for the stories we all follow and talk about together. People can follow ongoing stories they love and receive a weekly blog on each one, curating the best outside content of the week and also presenting interesting and fun questions to discuss with others with similar interests.

This is activity we love to do every day. We talk about what happened on Game of Thrones last night at the office by the proverbial “water-cooler” and we talk about the Golden State Warriors with our friends watching the game. We sometimes even use iMessage to create group chat about these events—the women’s marches last weekend for example—to share experiences of unfolding events with people who can’t be with us physically.

Streams versus Channels

In 2016 Jessica Lessin wrote an article in The Information called “The End of Streams”. Her point was that social platforms for people to receive news – and for publishers to distribute it – are beginning to evolve back to “channels” from the current situation of “streams”. She pointed out that newer social networks, like Slack and Snapchat, are more based on this channel concept – conversations around a common story – than an endless stream of content posts unrelated to one another. We think she is right on. Snapchat has emerged as a channel-based, fun solution for personal content and we see raftr as the channel-based, fun solution for news, sports and entertainment content.

Conversations and content are inextricably linked in the real world, but not served as well as they could be by existing social networks. First, they weren’t designed for the way we enjoy consuming this content. Instead they are designed to quickly distribute content (tweet, retweet). This is why they are increasingly used as a place to get breaking news or for celebrities or politicians to deliver widely received soundbites. The second issue is that our social graphs and interest graphs overlap some, but increasingly less and less as social pressures lead to larger friend and follower counts.

The result is that individual feeds are getting noisier with articles by publishers looking for distribution, by friends of friends forwarding random things, or worse, by content that is not from trustworthy sources. Not surprisingly, posting is down and our feeds feel noisier.

The Time is Right

What people are craving now is a safe place to engage in conversations about things they care about, with curated content intended to advance better dialogue about the stories we all follow together, whether that’s the leader of the free world, a favorite TV show, or a football team’s path to the Super Bowl.

This is a natural evolution in any industry; use cases start segmenting to make room for new products with greater depth of engagement, after first addressing breadth of coverage. smartphone ownership is approaching 80% of US adults now, according to Pew Research, having more than doubled since 2011.

With smartphones now nearly fully penetrated, in the next five years, we are likely to see new product categories emerge that capture deeper engagement and more time spent by various segments of the population. New products are likely to either segment into different use cases for a given type of shared content, or “verticalize” around narrower definitions of content, as opposed to one-size-fits-all.

In social networks, this evolution is happening before our eyes. We can see verticalization around shared interest content, with NextDoor emerging with a focus on shared neighborhood content, YikYak focused on the shared college experience, and Slack becoming a social network for a shared enterprise workplace.

We are seeing horizontal segmentation into use cases emerging too. A great example is with the content of people’s personal lives: the sharing of their pictures and stories of day-to-day life triumphs and developments seems to be breaking down into this kind of stratification in use:

For personal content, Snapchat leads in engagement, while Instagram and Facebook lead in reach. Both are important and valued uses cases.

We see the same thing happening in the sports, entertainment, and news story-type content that we all share (as opposed to the content of our personal lives). Twitter is the network of reach (best with breaking news and the one-to-many broadcast network of choice for celebrities and politicians). We believe raftr will become the network of engagement, today a wide-open space.

Raftr’s curation is by bloggers, either ours or external ones, around the thousands of stories we follow together. The product vision is to drive engagement in these stories through the use of many of the same product innovations as Slack and Snapchat employ: a messaging focus through chat rafts, with fun tools like bots to predict your favorite games or what’s next on a TV series, and curation of content into narrative stories. We intend to carve the space around topical conversations and build a product that emphasizes quality, safety and fun. We would love for you to join the raftr community!