Friday at the Future of Web Apps conference in London, Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis is set to announce an interesting update to the curated Web directory. The front page will get a ticker, or in modern terms, "live blog," of news items, updated in real time by a dedicated team.
Calacanis told me that the Mahalo home page has been getting some traction as a repeat destination site for visitors, and he wanted to get those, and other, users to stick on the site for longer. He also believes that news is a major driver of Internet traffic. So he's adding the ticker, and aims to have 20 updates an hour running through it. There will be eight people staffing the feature, with four to eight online at any one time, around the clock, every day of the year. "We're going to live-blog every single thing in the world," Calacanis says.
The ticker will have a dedicated page of its own, as well, with more live features: during certain hours of the day, a Web cam will be pointed at what can only be described as an anchorperson, and there will be a chat room where Mahalo users can talk about the news.
Each ticker item will be flagged by content area, and eventually the pages for those areas (like politics, sports, and weather) may also get tickers, as may high-traffic pages such as those for political candidates during an election.
Calacanis says he's not yet worried about monetizing this feature. He believes it will make the Mahalo site more sticky, which will drive clicks to pages that carry advertising. (I'll have more on online advertising in a future post.) With a claimed four years of operating capital in the bank, Calacanis says he can afford to experiment and aggressively launch new features. He also said he's looking forward to, possibly, picking up distressed online properties--either companies that are having trouble raising operating capital now, or projects that he expects the big online companies will soon be interested in offloading as not core to their business.
Regardless, I think the new live blog feature is smart for Mahalo, and a precursor to a new round of one-upsmanship in live news coverage on the news portals, as their teams try to figure out how to get users to stick to their sites for longer times per visit.