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Floost brings interest based content sharing network matching curation with consumption

Blogging is dead (?). Well, almost. But what’s not dead is the fact that people are still talking and social media is still growing at a phenomenal rate. Most of us have embraced Tweets, Facebook status updates as a way to express ourselves and importantly, a lot of us have gotten into curation (or re-posting with one’s commentary).

Floost is a product from Nogle Technologies (raised seed funding from Info Edge in 2011) that is building a interest based content sharing network that nicely mixes content curation (i.e. production) with matching intent, i.e. consumption of similar content.

Once you signup, you can mark your interest categories and Floost will recommend a few sites/content based on that.

Floost: Interest Selection
Floost: Interest Selection

The product is easy on your eyes – while you can call the UI heavily inspired from Pinterest, the point is that it’s a good representation of content from sources of your interest. But the key question to the team is why launch a service at a time when content creation has largely been reduced to 140 characters?

Floost: Logged-in Experience
Floost: Logged-in Experience

Interestingly, Nogle learnt it over a period of time that blogging was a stop-gap arrangement on web. Their first product was blinkk.me, which was later shelved and the new product, Floost is more focused on building network around interests.

Cofounder, Siddharth Goyal shares:  “The problem is we took a while to understand that and sort of went through a phase ( called blinkk.me ) to understand that how people are very distracted, they don’t have enough focus to express themselves in 400 words. So they are expressing through media, or short updates – read facebook and twitter.  Thats a no brainer.

Moreover, we also figured that blogging was actually a stop-gap arrangement on web, during times internet severly lacked the presence of established publishers ( who were more into print) . But over a period of time, there was an explosion of editorial content on internet, many niche reputed publishers emerged like techcrunch, mashable, pluggdin etc. This lead to lack of interest in reading individual blogs, unless the blogger has either a very strong credibility ( almost a mini celebrity) or has a very humorous take on a subject – excellent write-up ( needle in a hay stack problem, and more likely a single article is good, not the entire blog) .

However, we observed there is a growing trend on these social media platforms where people trying to create their reputation and a readership base by sharing interesting articles from trusted sources – Curatorship. The merit or identity lie in this selection of these articles among millions of available ones.

If you look at a typical Twitter profile, it says ” Rahul Agarwal, Product Manager at X, avid Photographer and newbie cook” . Now the point is when I talk to him ( or I follow him on twitter) I do that because I am only interested in the fact that he is a product manager in company X and the content he shares pertain to that dimension. I am not exactly interested in his photography and the dishes he has cooked. But, I do get that dump too on most networks.  Similarly if i am following 300 people, I am getting stuff about 900 personalities of theirs .

The second problem is I am getting everything from Rahul Agarwal because i am following him, and however i am missing the awesomeness stuff which Product manager of Facebook is sharing, because i am not following him.

Floost wants to be a pure play interest based network – where people share great stuff they like on web and you get the best stuff in your interest zone. This implies getting only the relevant stuff from people you follow and also the awesome stuff which other relevant people are sharing.

Pluggd.in:  A lot of automated curation services are being launched, that focus on curating content based on person’s interest – how do you compare Floost with them?

We are not exactly Automated curation service. Automation is to fill in for the chicken and the egg problem which any typical social network faces. Moreover, most of the products launched till now has failed because of very heavy reliance on Algorithms, most of it miss the human angle to it.

Floost will end of the day with a peoples network , the key difference between that you will only consume content which of interest to you. So, as a user I might share articles on anything be it cricket, Indian general elections, Olympics ,social media or movies, But if you are only interested in Cricket, you only get my posts on cricket. And that too not only from me,because you are following me, but also from the other users who share great suff on cricket.

Over a period of time, we see users sharing articles overtaking the stop-gap sourcing we are doing from popular sources.

Pluggd.in: What has been the traction so far?

We have got tremendous feedback on the product from all across the globe. We have some really promising numbers given that the product is very nascent. We have raced to great ranks on Alexa in last 4 months. In terms of user traction our user retention a very nascent stage of this social network is close to 16%, anything up of 10% is considered great at early stage products. Average first login session of the users in excess of 20 mins. Each user ends up inviting 25 users.

However, given we are currently getting traffic from regions with low early adopter base & social influencers, we believe that our growth is much slower than the potential of the product.We are really confident that once we actually get some footing in the western markets, these numbers will snowball to phenomenal proportions.

Pluggd.in: Future plans?

We are currently getting a lot of kudos, pat in the back , VC calls about Floost . Floost as a product is creating a great impression, but we are struggling to get the snow ball rolling in the developed markets. Being present in India, most of our influence zone is India, which has reflected in majority traffic from India and Asia PAC region. However, this traffic doesn’t help as very few early adopters/social media influencers, low count of content creators or contributors,majority just readers. Also this means delayed responses from markets which are actually behind in the adoption curve.

Future plan is to set up base in the developed markets, faster feedback, focus on mobility devices – iphone and Ipad applications. In developed markets, adoption of these devices is crazy and being in India, we seemed to have been very late to move on these platforms.

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In my opinion, Floost should have been an app-only product to start off (the product is more aimed at consumption and curation). And importantly, appealing to a few verticals could probably help increase traction – for example target a few publishers, a few media houses to get curated interest based content discovery done.

Apart from regular sports, entertainment etc. content, there is a whole lot of stuff that needs to be discovered. And a product like Floost should be more about content discovery  (which currently is driven by Twitter, in my case) and less about re-blogging.

What are your thoughts? Do give Floost a spin and share your comments.

[This startup coverage is part of Pluggd.in’s 65 startup special series, which is supported by Nexus Venture Partners. If you are a product startup, submit your details here.]

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