RealTime IT News

Zatso Quenches the Thirst for Local News

The overwhelming volume of online news can appear generic, and often omits the stories that are closest to home. So a company called Zatso is offering viewers a chance to filter local news reports with regard to their interests and then watch a half-hour daily newscast that is customized to their needs and interests.

"We found there was a big gap between the news people want and what they get on TV," said company spokesman Joshua Weinberg. "TV broadcasters have always been forced to deliver the same newscast to everyone. By creating 'personal news' we will close that gap."

As of the system's Jan. 25 launch, 23 local stations from across the country have signed onto the service. Additionally, Zatso will offer coverage from Reuters and the Weather Channel among other sources. Users log onto the site, answer some demographic questions and state certain preferences. For instance, you get the opportunity to screen out (or screen in) stories about crime or violence.

Zatso then selects the appropriate stories, writes custom transitions and sidebars, adds the advertising and places it online for the user to view at any time. While some stories will remain constant throughout the day, others are upgraded continuously.

The site will also provide added value for expatriates. A former New Yorker living in Seattle will be alerted to any newsworthy accounts in the old neighborhood. This is a better option than watching a local news station from a satellite, as you can filter out irrelevant information like traffic reports and commercials.

Zatso's financial model is familiar and predictable: Users get it for free, advertisers pay.

Throughout the initial funding and development process the company was known as ReacTV, and is currently in the process of changing all identifying marks (in order for the new name to make sense, just precede it with an "I"). Weinberg explains that the company's identification with TV was in fact restrictive: The Internet is a completely different platform, and we wanted a name we could use for a while."

The company received two rounds of venture funding adding up to $10 million, originating from Brentwood, IVP, Odyssey, KPE, Scripps Howard and Media General.

David Card, senior analyst for Jupiter Communications in New York, likes the idea -- calling the site "polished and cool" -- but isn't quite sure it will fly.

"Local news is an unexploited opportunity," he said. "And local advertising is a big business. But will people really want to watch news clips on their PC? Their core purpose is damaged by the fact that watching can be an unpleasant experience. Maybe they will just learn the tricks of the trade, and apply them to interactive TV when it becomes a reality."

In a Nutshell:

Company Name: Zatso
Address: 808 Brannan St, San Francisco, Calif. 94107
Phone: (415) 934-2900
Fax: (415) 934-2950
Contact e-mail address: info@zatso.com
Web address: http://www.zatso.com
Total Funding: $10 million
Investors: Brentwood, IVP, Odyssey, KPE, Scripps Howard, Media General

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