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The truncated life of an abridging site

Sean Cole Dec 5, 2008

The truncated life of an abridging site

Sean Cole Dec 5, 2008


Steve Chiotakis: Ah, high school. Homecoming. The prom.
Reading for English class. And if you were cramming, reading Cliff’s Notes. May have helped you through The Scarlet Letter or Great Gatsby. But now you’re an adult. And maybe you need to shorten some other material. The New Yorker. Marketplace. Yeah, there once was such a thing. But the sour economy shortened it. Here’s Marketplace’s Sean Cole.

Sean Cole: Our protagonist is Jeremy Brosowsky — publishing entrepreneur, father of four.

Jeremy Brosowsky: Goodbye guys. Mmmmmwah!

He’s a busy guy. And one day, mid 2005, he’s sitting in his living room staring at all the New Yorker magazines on the coffee table. And the Atlantic Monthlys. And the Washington Posts.

Brosowsky: And I’m looking at this pile thinking, gimme the Cliff Notes. Tell me the five things in this pile that I absolutely have to read so I can chuck the rest in the recycling bin and start from scratch.

The result was Brijit.com. That’s B-R-I-J-I-T. The site would take longer-form content and abridge it — boil down a 12,000-word New Yorker article into sixty or a hundred words. Or boil down a certain radio program . . .

Scott Jagow: Let’s move onto the job market. The help wanted index comes out today. It’s one of the oldest . . .

. . . into a paragraph that might go like this.

Brijit: The Conference Board’s Help Wanted Index came out today, listing print . . .

It would rate the content, too.

Brijit: Interesting, but this brief story is a little short on details.

The idea being that you’d then go and read or listen to the stuff that was worth your time.

Brosowsky: In the same way that, you know, a Yelp or a Chowhound helps you kind of tap the wisdom of crowds to, you know, determine what restaurant to go to.

Brijit launched last October, funded by investors with the idea that it’d sell ads and subscriptions later on. The site paid freelancers to summarize hundreds of little abstracts every day. Thousands of people read them. By march, Wired magazine rated Brijit a top business trends of 2008.

Brosowsky: And in that environment you never, ever hear about financing going bad.

But it did. The investors pulled. Brosowsky says it might have been the financial crisis, but he doesn’t know. In the end, Brijit shut down after six months of life.

Brosowsky: It was awful. I mean there’s nothing good about it, it’s terrible. You’ve got this great idea and you’re getting terrific feedback on it and I would chalk it up as an experience and just move on if I didn’t miss the service myself so damn much.

It saved him time — which, of course, is money. And he still thinks other folks might be willing to pay for something that saves time. So he’s planning a new version — SummaryMachine.com. Launch date, and funding, as yet unclear.

I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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