Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Just-Launched Swell Audio News App Backed With $5.4M

Swell, a sort of Pandora for talk radio, has raised $5.4 million in Series A funding led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

SwellThe company combines curation by its own team with an automated personalization system to tailor streams of various news shows, radio segments and podcasts.

Some items are timely, from the same day, and others come from the recent archives. There isn’t a way to control the length of the segments that are picked for you, besides swiping to the next one.

While San Francisco-based Swell launched its iOS app less than a month ago, investors are already enthusiastic. They’ve put $7.2 million in total funding into the company.

Besides DFJ, backers include Google Ventures, InterWest Partners and Correlation Ventures, as well as Charles River Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz in the seed round.

With primarily audio output and a simple swiping interface, the Swell app is optimized for in-car use, and I included it in a previous story about emerging technology that could make drivers less distracted by their phones than they are tempted to be today.

Swell co-founder and CEO Ram Ramkumar said the app’s early users are tuning in for 40 minutes or more per day.

Part of the investor support is due to the Swell team; Ramkumar and other members previously sold their image-recognition startup SnapTell to Amazon.

Though Swell has its personalization twist, there’s a ton of well-funded competition in this space, including TuneIn, Stitcher and iHeartRadio.

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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