New Rheo Curates Just A Few (Thousand) Good Videos

Rheo, a new social media video site curated to match the interests of its viewers, officially launches today on the iOS, Apple TV, desktop and mobile Web platforms. (The Apple TV version has existed since last year in beta.)

 The idea is to coordinate viewers’ interests based on charting algorithmically what they watch on Rheo. Their own “Rheo Stream” lets them sort content into six basic categories--Taste, Learn, Inform, Chill, Laugh and more experiential Spark. The service plays the most appropriate, high quality, short-form content matched to those interests, time of day and other factors.

Rheo’s CEO and co-founder Alan Cannistraro spent 13 years at Apple creating many of its first iOS apps, but credits a lot of his Rheo thinking on his more recent stint at Facebook where he worked on its autoplay video feature. Rheo takes a lot of its thinking from that and other aspects brought in by co-founder Charles Migos who designed Apple News and iBooks.

 On Rheo, like Pandora and other digital music services, one piece of content automatically leads into the next unless the user crushes it, which summons up a replacement and gives Rheo clues to your interests. It is not unlike channel surfing, he admits.

 “One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that if you just play things for us, show us moving images,we’re going to watch them, much more than if we asked you to pick it from a list,” Cannistraro said. “There are so many videos that I’m now enthralled with, but if I had to pick them from a list, I would have never done it. I’ve learned that at Facebook time and time again and here at Rheo.”

 One of Cannistraro’s  other inspirations is rooted in this more distant past disc jockeying. “I’ve been a DJ for about 25 years,” he said.  “And one of the things that I think is  core value of mine is that there is so much stuff out there, we need our guides to help us find the good stuff. . . Left to our devices in a sea of content, it’s hard. You don’t know what to pick. That’s one of the things radio did have right.” (The Los Angeles public station, KCRW-FM, is an inspiration for mixing “things that are about to trend and things that trended so long ago we’ve forgotten about  them.”)

 The service is aimed squarely at millennials, though Cannistraro thinks the appeal will broaden as it reaches for new platforms. It contains about 35,000 pieces of video, ingesting about 600 to 1,000 new videos per week. (By comparison, YouTube claims 400 hours of video are uploaded to its platform every minute; by one estimate there are at least 81 million YouTube videos).

 Rheo wants to be selective--no videos about how to apply make-up, no unwrapping videos. Content partners include Vimeo and Refinery29. On the Internet, with infinite choices, he said, millennials want things that save them time and a “single destination does seem to resonate with them.”

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