A startup with seed money from the likes of Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter, and Oprah Winfrey hopes to create a successful mashup of a professional and crowdsourced news network, a social-media site like Twitter, and a video hub like YouTube.
"There are practical solutions to [create] more jobs, lower crime, [provide] better education," #waywire co-founder and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker told TechCrunch. "If more people could find their voice and be part of the national dialogue, we could solve these problems."
#waywire, which plans to officially announce its $1.75 million of seed funding Monday, will feature original, issues-focused video segments, including, on launch, a three-times-a-day newscast of no longer than 5 minutes, Variety reports. That content will be augmented by videotaped responses shot and posted by the site's readers.
The idea is to get Millennials involved in public affairs through the participatory digital outlets they've grown up with and provide an alternative to old-school presentation of news.
Booker told Fast Company that Millennials "want to see news and information coming...from trusted news sources," but they also want to see "opinions, ideas, and values that other people have about" those news stories.
Booker is the tech savvy mayor who made some entertainment news headlines a couple of years back for publicly chastising Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, a proudly over-the-top cast member of MTV's "Jersey Shore" reality show, when she posted to Twitter that she was stuck in Newark traffic. Booker replied to "Snooki" in another public tweet and asked where in town she was so that he could have her ticketed for texting while driving, citing the city's need for revenue.
Booker also apparently made a strong impression on Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who donated $100 million to the public school system in Newark.
In addition to posting their own video responses, #waywire users will be able to share #waywire content and responses on their social networks, and there will be a badge and reward system that lets people become part of a team of curators that decide what content gets highlighted on the site, TechCrunch reports.
#waywire's other founders, according to All Things Digital, are Nathan Richardson (also the CEO), who's been president of Gilt City, CEO of ContextNext Media, head of Dow Jones online, and general manager of Yahoo Finance; and Sarah Ross, from Katalyst Media, TechCrunch, and Yahoo.
#waywire plans to launch a beta version of its site later this summer, and is presently accepting members for the current private beta. Variety reports that the site will launch without ads but that advertising will play a role once the site pulls in enough users. The trade paper also said the newsroom is in a temporary space in Manhattan, with fewer than 10 employees at the moment, and that #waywire wouldn't say how large a staff it plans to have down the road.
Here's a promotional video for #waywire, which gives an idea of the audience it's going after: