‘Digital anchor’ app makers say they plan to ‘expand the options’ for news consumers

By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 15:08 EDT
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'Guide' digital anchor demo video
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The makers of a new news-delivery app told The Raw Story on Wednesday that their project is not designed to get rid of the typical news anchor, but to enhance the news-reading experience.

“We’re not looking to replace any kind of television programming,” said Leslie Bradshaw, chief operating officer for Guide. “We’re looking to expand the options. In my mind — and I think this goes for anything, whether it’s news or, frankly, safety in cars — whenever there’s competition, and whenever there’s choice, the consumer always wins out.”

Guide, which will be put into public beta (testing) mode at the South By Southwest Interactive festival next month, would allow users to have the news articles of their choice read by a digital anchor avatar of their choosing.

“We’re taking people — let’s say a blogger or a journalist — and their content and we’re expressing it in a visual format,” said Freddie Laker, the company’s founder and chief executive officer. “Their knowledge, their point of view, their experiences, those are all there in their entirety. What we’re really doing is giving that same journalist, that same blogger, whoever, the ability to communicate their platform in a different format.”

Laker said the app, which at this point is designed for use on tablets and iPads, was originally devised as a way to get his online newsfeed thru his television. But its true benefit, he found, was giving users the ability to get their content at their convenience.

“You can take the same article by the same journalist who has all that experience and consume it while [you're] cooking on your tablet in the kitchen,” he said. “Or I could run it on my Smart TV in the morning while I’m getting dressed instead of CNN Headline News. I can focus on the journalists I care more about, which actually might be smaller publications.”

According to the tech site The Verge, Guide functions like the online equivalent of a regular news broadcast, with a “ticker” featuring tweets from whoever the user is following while the avatar reads stories culled from any site the user chooses that has an RSS feed.

“We have a great untapped resource of millions of blog posts that will never be on television without something like Guide,” Bradshaw said. “Our goal is to bring that content that millions of people love in a format that they want.”

Right now the app’s avatars range from more realistic-looking human presenters to anime-style characters to dogs, cats, and androids. Initially, Laker said, the results were mixed.

“The human avatars, about 1 in 5 people, the human avatars really freaked them out,” he said.

While the company works on further developing the app, Laker said, it is also working with actor Omar Epps, listed as an investor and advisor, to secure more high-profile likenesses.

“Imagine when we start working licensing deals,” Laker said. “When you start seeing gaming characters in there, or celebrities.”

Watch a demo for Guide, released online on Monday, below.

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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