Social newsletters: Fertile ground for publishers?

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Social news reader apps such as Flipboard, Pulse and Zite are growing in popularity on the iPad and other tablets. But there’s another content delivery channel that seems ripe for a more personalized news experience: email.

A recent report from the Pew Internet Project underscores the staying power of email. Researchers found that 92 percent of adult Internet users use email (same goes for search). That percentage has held steady for the past decade. Nearly 60 percent of online adults use email on a daily basis.

It makes sense, then, that software developers – and publishers themselves – would be exploring ways to improve the email newsletter experience. Paper.li, the content curation service that allows users to publish topic-driven “newspapers,” delivers a summary version of the paper into a subscriber’s inbox. Now, a social news start-up called Xydo is raising the bar further with a new service called Xydo Brief.

An extension of the company’s three-month-old website offering, Xydo Brief lets users create custom news feeds that are delivered to their inbox. The service offers a range of customization features: Subscribers can pick topics and assign a weight to each one. They can set the delivery schedule by day and by time. And they can create different briefs  for different times of the day.

The idea for Xydo Brief came from existing users, Xydo CEO and co-founder Eric Roach said in a phone interview. The new service is the first of what Roach sees as a series of products created around Xydo’s content API. iPhone and iPad apps, for example, are in the works and should be  available within the next two months, he said.

The API presents an opportunity for publishers to tap into the social news space. Roach said Xydo is open to licensing its API to media companies, which would enable a publisher to create what amounts to a white label version of Xydo geared to its own content. “There’s no reason we couldn’t give you a widget that does that,” Roach said.

Xydo aggregates its content using what Roach calls a “very substantial data farm, processing about 100,000 feeds.” IP “fingerprinting” puts a unique identifier on each piece of content. When people begin sharing a piece of content, it increases in value according to Xydo’s methodology. “We match that against people’s likes and tastes and serve up relevant content to them,” said Roach.

Roach would not disclose how many users Xydo has, but noted that the website has generated close to half a million unique visitors. Xydo Brief is currently available on an invitation-only basis.

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