Here’s why we are launching the very first startup for conversational journalism

Aug 25, 2016 · 6 min read

Hello world! After working on it for months we are finally ready to present the first version of our very first product “Resi” to all of you. 🎉 🎉🎉

“We” that is the RESI Media UG from Berlin, Germany, with its three founders Martin Hoffmann, Moritz Klack and Christopher Möller.

We thought it would be a good idea to answer the most important questions about the launch of our very first product, the Resi app, here in a small Q&A. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to us or ask in the comments below.

What is Resi?

Resi is finally here.

Resi basically is a chat bot living inside an app. She delivers the most important news of the day in a very entertaining way via a messaging interface the same way a good friend would do. Based on his own interests and knowledge the user decides which questions he wants to ask Resi and how deep he wants to explore a topic.

Behind the scenes a team of editors is curating the questions AND the answers of these conversations via the world’s first content management system (CMS) for conversational journalism.

What is so special about Resi?

Yes. It. Is.

Resi is an app that is fully taking advantage of the messaging format for bringing news to users. We are completely convinced: Users remember more information when the news are delivered to them in a conversational style — especially when compared to more classic journalistic approaches like simply transferring texts that were produced for a printed newspaper into the web.

In addition to that we have seen the rise of the messaging apps in the last few years. Today there are more people using these apps than using social media. Why? Because messaging is the killer application on smartphones (Sorry, Steve Jobs!).

If you combine these two thoughts there is only one conclusion: Journalism in the smartphone age is best delivered over a messaging interface. So we thought very hard about what it would look like to bring the news to a user like that.

Here are some of the things we came up with. Our solution is not perfect yet — but it is a very good first step we can continue to build on.

  • The user gets something else than links: The easy way to go would be to simply send out links to the user. But we think this is not the right way. We are living in a platform world where journalism needs to adjust itself to every new platform. And messaging is such a new platform, too. Therefore journalism needs to be rethought entirely for a world defaulting to messaging. GIF and emoji are a natural fit for that kind of journalism as we all use them when we’re chatting with our friends. But we also need completely new journalistic formats and solutions that are not even invented yet. And this is exactly what we want to do.
  • The user can dive as deep into a topic as he wants: Not only is the user in control over the direction he wants the conversation to continue. But we added another layer of information to the pure text communication. If a user for example doesn’t know anything about a certain person or a certain topic he can ask Resi for more information — and gets it delivered natively inside the conversation as a “Rich Card”. These Rich Cards are beautifully designed additional info layers that might contain everything from simple text to small multimedia pieces. The user can simply tap on them and gets all the information he needs. Right now we display maps and explainers. But we plan to introduce many more of these Rich Cards with additional information and messenger native formats very soon.
All followed topics in one place
  • The user can follow single stories and topics via push: Let’s face it: Push notifications on smartphones really suck. Although they are enormously powerful almost every media company follows a “one size fits all” approach here. You get the same notifications as your mother, your cousin and the guy who is selling bread around the corner. With Resi this finally comes to an end. The user can opt-in to push notifications on every topic Resi is talking about with him by simply tapping a follow-button. In addition to that Resi can simply ask him if he wants to stay updated on the topic in the future. Again, if he says “yes” he automatically subscribes to push notifications on that topic from there on. Over time a user builds his very own interest graph of topics he wants to stay informed on, which he can easily unfollow again if he is not interested in them anymore (Kudos to Matt Galligan and the old Circa news app for the “Follow your story” idea!).
  • The user gets to know Resi after a while: Resi is not only bringing you the news in a completely new way. It also feels like you are talking to a real human being. We designed a whole character playbook for her — with all the little quirks that can make a bot feel more human after a while. Resi is witty and funny but also has some strong opinions from time to time, if she is talking about a topic or a person she doesn’t like. Her behavior is hard to describe. So the best thing to do is to talk to her on your own.
  • The user gets a feeling of completion: We won’t compete in the rat race of news journalism. In a very crowded space we want to become an editorial team that offers guidance instead of noise. So we will never ever publish hundreds of news stories per day. Instead we offer our users only the most important and most talked about topics of the day. Topics that really matter to them. Topics they are interested in. When there is no news left Resi will tell the user exactly that. Because it simply feels good to finish something.

How did Resi come to life?

This is exactly how it went. Really.

The first idea goes back to summer of 2015. Back then it was inspired by Lark — an app that tries to convince users of living a healthier lifestyle via a conversational interface— and the now famous article about “Conversational Commerce” by Chris Messina.

After a time of ideation we started to think about how such a news app could be brought to life — and how editors could produce content for it. Soon it became clear that we needed a content management system so unique that no other media company has built it before.

We started designing our “Resi CMS” from scratch in January and shipped an early prototype of our first app to 50 test users in early February. The feedback we got was overwhelmingly positive — and when Quartz launched its app (which you might have heard of…) back in February gaining very positive responses for its conversational interface, we knew we were on to something.

So we worked even harder to improve our product as fast as possible and will continue doing so.

Who should use Resi?

People like this ambitious young lady are perfect users for Resi.

Resi is no product made for news junkies. People who are constantly checking their Twitter feeds for news updates, reading every little detail about every news topic won’t find THAT much fun in Resi.

But we think Resi is a very good experience for people who want to stay informed on what’s happening around the world, people who follow the news to simply be aware of the talk of the town.

We completely focus on distilling only the most important updates out of the news cycle into conversations to give our audience a sense of completion.

These conversations are the perfect way to consume news on the go on a smartphone. So if you like checking the news on your way to school or to work in the bus/train/tube/whatever or if you ever catch yourself scrolling around an old school news website looking for new information but being annoyed by the mass of content you should give the Resi app a try.

What’s your vision for Resi?

“If you have visions, go to the doctor!”

Resi is not “just another news app”. It is way more. We are the very first news startup worldwide that is focused specifically on conversational journalism.

As with every new platform the rise of the messaging apps bears new opportunities for those who have the courage to grab them. We want to establish Resi as the number one brand for journalism in the messaging format. Right now we have a German app on iOS only with an Android version to follow as soon as possible. But there are many more things to come — including an English version.

So if you want to give the app a try, simply click here to download it. We’ll see you there!

Thanks to Theresa Rentsch.


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