Hands On With #waywire, Cory Booker’s Video Service That Turns You Into A Newscaster

Don’t let big media decide what’s important. #waywire enters private alpha today to let you collect, curate, and share video news from across the Internet. Clips from top-tier broadcasters, citizen journalists, and original web content creators can be cobbled together to let you share your perspective on what’s happening in the world.

Created in part by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and backed by all-star investors like Eric Schmidt and Oprah, #waywire lets you become the director a personalized CNN or BBC for you and your friends. We got early access this weekend, so here’s the bulletin on how #waywire works.

You can sign up for #waywire with just an email address, but then can connect your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn to “wire” out the videos you choose. The homepage of #waywire is a Pinterest-style board of personalized video suggestion, which rests below a carousel of editorially curated top picks. From here, users can browse an eclectic set of topics, from The Olympics to world news.

Users tag, comment and share their favorite clips to their #waywire subscribers or broadcast to their social networks by clicking a conspicuous “w” at the bottom of each video. #waywire’s suggestion algorithm pulls in videos from various sites that have strong traffic from the 18-29 demographic, and the small #waywire team scours the Internet for trending videos that appeal to what they see as the tastes of Generation Y.

We had a solid first impression with the service: our feed had a healthy mix of Olympic clips and world news, including gems like Mitt Romney accidentally introducing Paul Ryan as the “next President.”

#waywire’s topic search is impressive. For instance, education-related videos can be a tricky subject to search for. Typing “education” in YouTube turns up a mess of suggestions on “Ninja Warrior” training and blackhead removal. #waywire, however, suggested a mix of informative videos, from Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk on how schools kill creativity, to investor Peter Thiel’s thoughts on the higher education bubble higher education bubble (comedian Louis C.K’s rant about 20-year-olds was a pleasant bonus, too).

The nice thing about #waywire is that unlike the transient vertical feeds of Twitter and Facebook, a user’s channel can be a permanent showcase for what they think are the best education videos. Great clips don’t necessarily fall off the bottom of your profile as you post more.

Perhaps the most disruptive feature of #waywire is its raw database of original footage from 60 content partners, including Reuters, the world’s largest multimedia news agency.

In the near future, users will be able to cut original clips on breaking world news, giving them the editorial power once reserved to broadcast producers walled-off in a darkroom with thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Web-savvy users could splice together the best professional footage with eye-witness citizen accounts posted on YouTube, disrupting the major broadcasters’ monopoly on video news. #waywire also plans to let users shoot and edit their own video responses to content they find around the web.

While #waywire aims to be the next major social platform, it’s designed for a symbiotic relationship with Twitter, Facebook and, especially, YouTube. The team estimates that half of the traffic will come from users going directly to the site, and the rest will come through other social networks. Partly, the direct traffic will come from #waywire’s “light” production of original programs (including this heartwarming Tweet Tap episode for TechCrunch). Monetization could come through targeted ads relating to the videos users watch around the site. Right now, though, the #waywire needs to win mindshare and deliver on its mission to help young adults inform each other.

By combining user participation with professional presentation, #waywire is perhaps the closest of any digital platform to replacing TV news.

For more on #waywire, attend or watch the livestream of TechCrunch Disrupt SF where Cory Booker will be speaking.