Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Black Ocean relaunches LMK topic aggregation iPhone app after acquisition from Hearst Entertainment

Digital media and investment firm Black Ocean has acquired a majority stake in LMK ("Let Me Know"), a mobile app that delivers news and information based on topics of interest to the individual user. The iPhone app has been relaunched in beta into the App Store as a free app, and an Android version will be launched into the Android Market later this month.

"We're very excited by the space," Oliver Ripley, co-founder and CEO of Black Ocean told TNM this afternoon. "One of the things we've done is invested and become part of a business called App Nation. App Nation is really developing into the front running conferencing business around apps."

"Hearst had done an excellent job with LMK to get it to where it was," Ripley said. "What really excited us about the actual app itself was, you know, there are a lot of apps for tablets to aggregate and look at news, however there wasn't really an app dedicated to the mobile device."

"If we think about the mobile device as something that is linked to us throughout the day – in our pockets, or in our handbags, something we always have with us – it's become so integrated into our daily lives that soon payments will be done through mobile phones, and that will be the quintessential piece of technology that we all carry."
Unlike news aggregation apps, such as Flipboard, Editions or Zite, LMK is topic-driven. Users customize the news streams by scrolling through pre-loaded topics across five categories: business, entertainment, life, news, and sports. Within each main category are additional subcategories.

"This app is really about speed to content," Ripley said. "This app is really about providing a user with the ability to follow not aggregated news, but news based around topics. Topics that he or she is interested in. This canbe actors, actresses, this can be sports teams, this can be particular companies."

"One of the issues I have with a lot of the tablet aggregators out there – whether its Flipboard or others out there – it gives you a general overview of what's out there in the market. But I specifically wanted to know what is going on with my favorite football team or my favorite basketball team I don't have that ability to do that."

The app, when owned by Hearst, was a paid app, with up to 70 individual apps on various topics. Now the  newly relaunched app is free and will be advertising supported.

"What's great is that because you are telling what you are interested in and what you want to hear about we can serve and match ads very well to you. And at the same time one of the key things is not to not disrupt your user experience," Ripley said.