Ina Fried

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Exclusive: Web App Publisher Conduit Expands Into Mobile

Conduit, a start-up whose tools enable publishers to easily create Web apps from their content, plans to announce this week that its tools can now also be used to create programs for the iPhone and Android.

Conduit president Adam Boyden said in an interview that small publishers and even plenty of larger ones are having trouble keeping pace as the number of mobile platforms grows.

“it gets really complex really quickly,” Boyden said, noting that publishers need not only to develop their apps, but also keep them fresh and updated, and find ways to promote them. Given how similar that is to the Web app business–and the growing power of HTML5 and Web apps in general–Boyden said he sees a huge opportunity in mobile. Conduit’s apps, Boyden said, will meet the standards to be included in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market.

Less clear, though, is how the company will make money. It plans to make development of the Web apps free, but will look to find ways to generate revenue as apps are successful.

“We are going to examine and experiment with lots of different models,” Boyden said. “We will work out a model where we can get remunerated in a way that makes sense for everyone.”

Currently, Conduit makes its money through its eponymous Web app site and as a big maker of custom toolbars. The company made some headlines last year when it switched from Google to Bing. About half of Conduit’s revenue comes from toolbars, with the other half coming from the Web app part of the business. The 200-person company is profitable, Boyden said.

Although the company has a lot of big-name publishers on the Web side, including companies like Univision and Major League Baseball, it is starting with a more modest list on the mobile side. Soccer team Liverpool and game makers Bigpoint and Exent are among its early mobile customers.

The company will be in Barcelona next week (as will Mobilized) for the big Mobile World Congress trade show, where it hopes to formally kick off the mobile push.

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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