Messaging Meets The News
Potluck App Reimagines Articles and Comments for the iPhone
We are a mission-driven company.
Two years ago, we observed that every major publishing and social platform was centered around monologues, yet it is dialogue that brings us the greatest level of understanding, empathy, and connection to other people. Thus, we set out to build the home for discussions on the internet, with the belief that it would make the world a better place. And given that the vast majority of people still don’t click buttons labeled with words like “post” on the internet, it is also a massive opportunity.
Today, the nine of us are still obsessed with bringing meaningful conversations to the masses, and our solution-agnostic approach to product building has allowed us to continually refine our theses. Potluck built on top of what we learned building Branch, and Roundtable before that, and today we’re excited to show you the next iteration of our work:
Potluck 2.0, for your iPhone, is a completely redesigned experience.At the core of this redesign was the question,
“Given that most people now prefer using their smartphone instead of their computer, what can Potluck deliver that they don’t already have on their home screen?”
Our answer: A messaging app that offers bite-sized news and facts, and the opportunity to talk about them in intimate spaces with friends.
A Messenger App, Based Around Topics Not People
Facebook and Twitter have long dominated public mindshare but the rise of iPhones and Androids is also resulting in the rise of the messaging app. For example, WhatsApp has more users than Twitter, and people share more photos on Snapchat everyday than on both Facebook and Instagram. If the photo drove the first wave of “social” — from Facebook to Instagram — the message will drive the next. We’re still in the early innings though. If you consider all of the stuff we talk about on incumbent social networks — from wedding photos and travel plans to The News and YouTube links — the content we share with each other on messaging apps is still relatively limited.
Potluck 2.0 is a messaging app where conversation threads are based around topics, not people. Instead of tapping on the names of your roommates or co-workers to start talking, you tap on topics that you’re interested in — such as “Banksy’s NYC residency,” or “Eminem’s new album.” For most people, “comment sections” were never a thing, Twitter is passive not conversational, and Facebook is about photos and relationship statuses — we want Potluck to be the icon on your homescreen that you turn to when you want to talk about content and topics that pique your interest.
Articles Reimagined For A World of Instagrams and iPhones
In Potluck 2.0, you’ll find original news content created by our team — shaped and written in a way to make it approachable to people who are on their phones, and don’t have the time, interest, or context needed to read thousand word articles. This editorial feature was informed by three surprising learnings from the first version of Potluck:
- A lot of people, most notably younger demographics, don’t “find links” or “surf the internet” on their phones.
- Even for those who do find links, the time it takes to load those URLs in a mobile web browser, and the length of the content at the other end deters people from the experience.
- Most of our friends and peers find “The News” unapproachable, even though they are genuinely curious about what’s going on in the world around them.
In parallel, we continue to hear from major publishers that more than half of their traffic is coming from mobile devices, and that rate is only increasing. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the size and shape of “The News” is broken on smartphones, and needs to be rethought from scratch.
Why do we, a technology company focused on conversation, care about that? Conversation can only happen after awareness and understanding, and the three problems listed above were continually getting in the way of our users having conversations. We think our unique (mobile-first) format and approach to “The News” will help remedy that, and drive more conversation.
You won’t have to wait for our version of “The News” to load in a mobile web browser. It’ll never take more than twenty seconds to read, and our three slide format will keep your attention from waning. And most importantly, it’ll make a broad range of topics accessible by assuming you don’t particularly care or know the backstory. (We won’t always get it right the first time, but we’ll try our best to quickly learn and improve.)
Card-Based Navigation, Inspired By Tinder
Behind closed doors, both consumer internet and media companies will tell you that web traffic isn’t just slowing due to mobile growth anymore. They’ll say it’s declining. And as the shift from desktop computers to mobile devices continues to accelerate, so do consumers’ expectations around what makes for a delightful user experience on your phone. Frankly, mobile web views and hamburger buttons just won’t cut it anymore.
When we spoke to our friends and peers, Tinder was often cited as the app with the most “fun” and compelling navigation. It’s great: You focus on one thing at a time, and move to the next (while simultaneously educating the system) with a playful flick of your thumb. Inspired by Tinder, the home view of the new Potluck app is a stack of cards. Tapping on each reveals the content and conversation associated with that card, and when you’re ready for the next one you can swipe to the left if you never want to see it again, or swipe to the right if you’d like to follow along the conversation that ensues. We’ve found this gesture-heavy, “hot or not” navigation to be addicting — it takes advantage of this new world of tapping and swiping, and allows people to share and engage on the go with relative ease.
As our company’s Jobs page explains, we want our teammates to be people who “never stop trying to prove themselves wrong.” Us, included. In the coming weeks, we’ll fix bugs, improve copy, and reevaluate hypotheses based on user feedback. In addition to building an original “compose” experience into the iPhone app and improving the ease of on-boarding friends.
Branch Media, Inc.
Branch Media is a New York City-based company whose team builds social products that empower people to talk to each other. The company’s backers include Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jason Goldman’s Obvious Corp., Jonah Peretti and Lerer Ventures, John Borthwick’s Betaworks, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, and a great group of angel investors.
Branch, the nine-person team’s first product, is a platform for hosting and publishing invite-only conversations. It has been used by publications like The New York Times and Fast Company, brands like General Electric and Hyatt, and public figures like Baratunde Thurston and General Stanley McChrystal. Its second product, Potluck, is a mobile and web application that lets you find out what’s going on and chat about it with friends.