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Mike Kreuzer

Precis, the news that was

November 21, 2021

I set up Precis, a news summary site, and it failed. This is a short retrospective and I suppose memorial.

Precis was meant to be the news without the hype or distraction. It came out each day with a short summary of the day's main stories, with links to earlier coverage of those stories both in Precis and the news sites I sourced them from. Human curated: no algorithms, no firehose.

It was, like all these things, a product aimed at filling a need I felt personally. It was made in imitation of (and with the sincerest form of appreciation for) Brief, which was a news summary app that got shuttered around a month earlier when the team behind it was "acqui-hired" by Twitter.

Maybe basing a business idea of a failed business isn't necessarily that great a recipe for success. I still think it has potential though, in other hands.

Maybe the daily format worked against the aim of avoiding hype. It certainly meant I had little spare time for much of anything else, or to delve at all deeply into any one story. Better resourcing would have helped. But there was a definite drumbeat of repetition of a few major stories over its life that would have suited a longer summary time period. A weekly summary maybe.

Maybe it's better not to generalise, other than to say I didn't do much of anything to promote Precis, even to blog about it here, and that kids is usually the key.

Precis didn't generate much organic/word of mouth growth, so I stopped doing it.

In terms of the tech, Precis was a react-static site, which made it both reasonably small and reasonably fast. If I were to do something similar again I'd probably try astro or whatever was around like it at the time, to maker it even smaller and faster. But a web site, rather than an app, still seems to be the right format for it to me. The tech I think counted in its favour if anything, the problems weren't technical.

Precis ran daily from 5 August to 21 September 2021. Vale Precis.