The majority of my time as a tech writer is spent in conversation. I hunt down cool startups and quirky founders and convince them to talk with me. After finalizing a time comes the interview itself. During this, I take pains to understand their product, business model, traction, and personal journey. When that’s over I spend my time transcribing, writing, and editing. I might have a further chat with the founders if there are any follow-up questions or things which require clarification. At the end of the day, our audience reads an edited version of a conversation I had with an entrepreneur. It’s a lengthy, time-consuming process.
ReplyAll is trying to simplify this entire exercise. The Tel Aviv-based startup says it’s “obsessed” with having great conversations and making it easy to publish them online. Its tool allows users to invite others to engage in a debate, exchange ideas, ruminate on life, and then publish the discussion on their site or social feeds.
“My co-founder and I would exchange lengthy emails on sports, culture, politics, and business in our old jobs,” ReplyAll CEO Zach Abramowitz tells Tech in Asia. “One day I told him these conversations are very interesting and I wish there was some way to publish them. So he said what’s even more engaging is whether we could follow conversations between interesting people, such as influencers, writers, and authors. If you could read their email exchanges that would be very insightful.”
So the founders promptly got to work and had an MVP out by June 2013. Initially, it worked only as a standalone platform where registered users could log on, invite someone to participate, and publish the discussion on their social media channels. But they soon understood that most of the people likely to engage in conversations already had their own blog or website and would prefer to publish it there. So after a few months, ReplyAll pivoted and built a basic publishing tool. Content was still created using the online tool but it was no longer necessary to publish only on its own platform. “That’s when we started seeing traction,” says Zach.
What we found is that this tool works really nicely for publishing interviews, panels, and debates online. Instead of what happens right now on most online interviews, where someone sends five questions, gets back five answers, this allows for an actual back and forth. Readers can follow conversations as they happen live.
Zach claims ReplyAll can drive significantly high engagement rates. The average reader spends ten minutes per page per article on content published using ReplyAll. If the discussion is happening live, then it can translate into three to four page views per unique visitor. There’s a varied mix – some customers prefer to publish conversations only when they’re final while others allow readers to follow it live.
Content driven by conversations on ReplyAll has been published on Sports Illustrated, TechCrunch, Stanford University, and Boston.com. Zach says publishers were initially skeptical as to whether the tool would actually work but warmed up to the idea once they saw higher-than-average page views and engagement.
The basic tool is available for free, with premium features costing cold, hard cash. The startup is also working closely with businesses – Zach says it offers a number of packages to engage customers. “We’ve been involved in producing thousands of conversations so we know what works. There are companies hiring us just to run campaigns for them,” he adds.
ReplyAll has also entered into white-label partnerships with publishers where it provides a site with the entire interface. Another revenue stream is sponsored content, where publishers use ReplyAll to create engaging content for businesses with revenue split accordingly. The startup raised US$350,000 in angel funding and is already churning out revenue. Zach says the aim has always been to be revenue positive so that they’re not overtly reliant on investor money to keep the company sustainable.
The ultimate goal, Zach explains, is not to just build a tool but position ReplyAll as a medium to discover all the great conversations taking place in the world. As a lot of the video and audio content on the web is simply discussions between experts, the target is to make it the best way to consume conversations.
“A lot of people want to be interviewed – they have wisdom to share with the world,” Zach says. “We specifically built this tool so that doing interviews is fun, engaging, and as simple as possible. You’re not asking someone to give 30 minutes of their time to record them for a podcast. You’re just asking them to reply to emails.”
What do you think of ReplyAll’s approach to discussions? Let us know in the comments!
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