When former Yahoo president Sue Decker looks back at what she, and subsequent Yahoo leaders, turned the company into, it leaves her frustrated.
Her main regret is that they were never able to turn what she thinks is Yahoo’s main asset, its media content, into something that people could consume easily on their smartphones and share with others.
In other words: Yahoo never cracked mobile or social, according to Decker.
Over the last year, Decker has channeled a piece of that frustration into a new app called Raftr, which launches on Wednesday, and aims to be a place for ongoing conversations about specific topics like sports, news, and TV.
“Raftr wants to appeal to the superfans,” Decker told Business Insider.
Decker is betting there is a large audience of people that are fans of a set of topics – say “Game of Thrones” and the Golden State Warriors and a particular political issue – and would appreciate an app to both talk about them and see what’s new, without clutter.
Raftr will sit somewhere between a fan forum and checking a hashtag on Twitter.
You pick your topics to follow, from a list Raftr’s staff curates, and then you can see what people are posting about them – either in a typical feed, or on the topic page.
In addition to posts made by users, Raftr has an editorial staff that will produce one blog post a week on each topic, with one staffer handling 5-6 topics. However, this “content is a means to an end,” Decker said. She wants to use it to jumpstart the conversation.
(As a side note, Raftr’s initial way of making money will be ads that appear not in your feed, but in the editorial content Raftr’s team produces.)
Beyond the feed and topic pages, if you want to talk about an event while it’s going on – say, a football game – Raftr has a chat-room type functionality as well, with custom groups.
If you’re already heavily involved in a fan community, or subreddit, Raftr isn’t likely to make a huge dent in your activity.
But if you aren’t a diehard that wants to go somewhere to talk about the shows you love, Raftr feels, at least at first glance, easier to navigate that stepping into the firehose of Twitter or Facebook.
There is less noise, and a much greater ability to sort by topic, people mentioned, and other factors. Decker also emphasizes that to join Raftr, you have to enter your phone number, which will hopefully cut down on abuse. She wants to create a place that is “safe.”
The big question is whether Raftr can make it a habit for users to check the app. Is there a time during the day where I know I want to engage in conversation about topics I’m a fan of, but am not seeking a particular piece of information about a particular topic?
Raftr needs to capture a middle ground between the intricacies of Reddit and Tumblr, and the ease of Facebook.