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Mike Isaac

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Edtech App Learnist Aims for Personalization, Growth With Latest Update

Learnist-app-logo-digitalFor any startup, getting a user to download their app is only a small part of the battle. A successful sign-up is a “sticky” sign-up, where a user continuously comes back to the app over and over again.

How, pray tell, does a startup get that sort of stickiness? For Learnist, a visually oriented educational app, the answer is simple: Eliminate the biggest barrier to entry, the sign-up process.

Don’t misunderstand me here — sign-ups are obviously important (and they still exist in the app). But the company plans to launch an update to its iOS and Web apps on Thursday that aims to eliminate the arduous, usual upfront process of onboarding users, letting first-timers begin to use the service without needing to immediately sign up to get going.

The idea is pretty simple. Learnist is a Pinterest-cum-Twitter social teaching application that lets users curate different types of lessons in a stream-like feed of content. Instead of forcing its users to hand over all their info off the bat, the app asks you to pick a few topics of interest to follow — people, places, things, ideas and the like — and Learnist will auto-populate a stream of content for users to peruse as they explore the app. From there, it will suggest more things to follow, or more data to add (like your address book or Facebook account, which could help you find more friends on the service).

Think of it as fast-tracked personalization, without the immediate hassle of the sign-up screen.

That, coupled with the new content offerings from partners like Discovery and, as of Thursday, the BBC, will likely fill newcomers’ streams with enough material to keep them engaged and — hopefully — coming back often. At that point, the company thinks, a user will get the value of the service and will be willing to sign up.

Those are the good, “sticky” sign-ups for Learnist, the ones that turn casual visitors into repeat users. All it has to contend with are the myriad other content streams out there seen on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the other edtech startups that occupy the space. Ideally for Learnist, lowering the barrier to entry will make it that much easier to at least give the product a quick spin.

Sign-ups TBD.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald