Twitter Acquires Summify, Eyes Social News Curation

Unlike several personalized news startups that have ended up in the deadpool in past years, startup Summify announced today that they’ve been acquired by Twitter. “Our long-term vision at Summify has always been to connect people with the most relevant news for them, in the most time efficient manner,” the co-founders wrote on their blog earlier today. “As hundreds of millions of people worldwide are signing up and consuming Twitter, we realized it’s the best platform to execute our vision at a truly global scale.” The Vancouver-based team will be moving to San Francisco to work out of Twitter’s offices, and will join their Growth team where they “will continue to explore ways to help people connect and engage with relevant, timely news.” The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, though TechVibes says it may have been an all-stock transaction.

Summify automatically identifies the most important news stories across all of a user’s social networks, and creates a daily summary of top content. The daily summary is available on the web or iPhone app, or via email. It creates a summary by looking at factors including how much a piece of news has been shared by contacts, and takes a user’s reading history into account. Once a user connects their accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader the service collects and filters links to text-based news stories, and then uses an algorithm to determine which stories are important. It primarily takes into account the news being shared by friends, with more importance placed on friends a user interacts with the most. Due to the acquisition, new signups have been disabled, and the team will be offering a more streamlined version of the product as they transition to working at Twitter. Startups including Percolate and News.me have already offered special invites to users who can’t sign up for Summify.

The Vancouver-based company was founded by Romanian entrepreneurs Cristian Strat and Mircea Pasoi, and currently has six employees. Investors include Accel PartnersBoris Wertz of w media ventures, and several individual investors. According to their bios both founders turned down jobs at Facebook and Google to start the company. They moved to Vancouver to join the January 2010 class at Bootup Labs startup accelerator, which is no longer active. The tool was originally called Readfu, and the first version helped give context to text links. They rebranded to Summify in March 2010, launched the social news reader in August 2010, and launched the daily email summary in March 2011.

Summify is another company that is aiming to perfect social content curation. But rather than focus on user-powered curation like Pinterest, Summify automatically curates news in a user’s network and provides a digest. It takes the onus off the reader, and aims instead to declutter their social feeds and only serve information that is unique, relevant and actually new. There are certainly other news curation sites out there, both user-generated leaderboards like Hacker News, editor-curated aggregators like TechMeme, and mobile curation tools like Flipboard (and as BusinessInsider points out, Flipboard founder Mike McCue sits on Twitter’s board). But Summify is different because it leverages each user’s individual network – rather than just sharing the news that’s important online, it takes into account how many times a user’s own social graph has shared a piece of content. “A lot of our users tell us we found a magical solution to this problem and managed to package it up in a great, easy to use product,” co-founder Strat said in an interview. “What’s interesting is that with the right tools we can thrive in information overload. Summify works better the more data you feed into it and because of that we’ve seen users feel liberated to follow more people and feeds.”

This has a direct impact on publishers because it means what’s popular or most newsworthy might not show up in someone’s news summary; rather what their friends find interesting will make it to the top. There might be a discrepancy between the two, and publishers are then left to focus on how to increase how often their content is shared on social networks, rather than how many pageviews they get on their own website.

There’s a lot of content from a variety of publishers all fighting to make it to a potential reader – Summify stated that for every article shared in a user’s daily summary, over 150 pieces of content are rejected. In an Infographic on social sharing compiled in 2011, they claimed that over four billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every day, and that the amount of content people share doubles every year. Now the question is what Twitter will do with the tool to help users make use of the links shared by the people they follow. The amount of information shared on the social networking giant is staggering, and they’re likely looking for a way to provide an aggregated view of valuable news in a user’s stream. “We can’t get into details but we will continue to explore ways to help people connect and engage with relevant, timely news,” Strat says about joining the Twitter team. “We think it’s really exciting and we’ve only scratched the surface.”

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.