Mike Isaac

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Timehop Hooks Up With USA Today to Deliver Stories From the Past


Ask any marketer — nostalgia sells. It’s longing paired with the passage of time, a sense of how things were once “better,” or at least different, than they are today. Bottle that feeling, and you’ve got a potential customer in the bag.

It’s why Timehop — the mobile app that serves up a daily summary of your past social activity on Facebook and Twitter from years ago — is so powerful. And it’s also likely why USA Today has partnered up with Timehop, and is now delivering users relevant news from the past in their daily Timehop updates.

It works like so: Anyone familiar with Timehop knows that the service will send you a little notification each morning, letting you know that your trip back in time to view your old status updates and tweets is ready. With the new partnership, users will see a significant, newsy item from the past, and the contemporary story matched to that day. So, for example, you may see what the state of the Mars rover mission was six years ago, and a story about where the program is today.

“What Timehop is doing is trying to work with the long tail of content and resurface it,” USA Today social marketing director Mark Smith told me. “Here, USA Today is trying to do the same thing with news content, and the ability to bring back old, iconic headlines to people on a daily basis.”

It’s not always the “obvious” moment, either. While an item may have been a huge deal say, three years ago, perhaps the lasting news value of it was nil. “We’re looking for those small moments that turn into something bigger,” Smith said.

There’s an obvious draw for USA Today to be included here: All of the past stories inside the app will link out to a USA Today piece hosted on the publication’s site. It’s a small way of driving an extra bit of traffic out to the paper’s daily site. (USA Today wouldn’t tell me what the terms of the deal were with Timehop, or what the app got in return; my guess would be some sort of affiliate fee.)

To be honest, I was a little shocked to hear of the partnership between the two organizations. Timehop is a small startup run by only a handful of entrepreneurs, while USA Today is an institution. I don’t often see major publications take chances on small tech-centric startups.

But I’d imagine that’s part of the attraction here. As Timehop is still fairly under the radar of the mainstream, it’s a way for USA Today to toe the waters of what social affiliate marketing can do, without going “whole hog,” as it were. And the paper has proved experimental in the past, as one of the first major news publications to partner with social magazine Flipboard.

Smith is bullish on Timehop’s sharing prospects, as users can push out their past statuses and moments to Facebook and Twitter from inside the app. And, like Timehop’s makers, Smith and his paper are banking on more users being charmed as time goes on.

On a personal note: It really is a charming app, popular within the tech circles for surfacing all the old, stupid stuff we’ve updated our statuses with over the years. We’ll see if the newsy touch can add the same feeling.

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