Ridgeland-based Vu Digital gives media content, websites a personal touch
by Stephen McDill
Published: August 2,2013
Vu Digital founder Wade Smith grew up in Louise and after college and law school at the University of Mississippi briefly practiced corporate and securities law in Jackson before starting at C Spire Wireless as a consumer technology manager.
With an eye for customer needs and interests as well as trending technology in the rapidly evolving world of telecommunications, Smith rose in the C Spire ranks from director of product development to vice-president of product and innovation.
As a co-founder and vice-president of operations and development for C Spire subsidiary Vu Digital, LLC, Smith is now leading the charge on personalized content, the idea that whether they are using a smartphone or browsing a website, customers should have easy access to all things digital that interest them.
Whether its sports, fashion, Facebook or the top headlines of the day, Vu (pronounced “view”) can personalize a website or organize and drive specific content to the customer’s device where its ready for them the next time they power up.
Q: Where did the idea for Vu Digital come from?
A: (C Spire Wireless) came to a realization that we were in a mature industry, a mature business cycle. Cellular penetration is at 100 percent, which puts us in a position of swapping customers with the other carriers. We’re a very healthy company — still experiencing growth just not at a rate that we were years ago. We decided to embark on somewhat of a startup.
Q: Where did the name Vu come from?
A: It’s a play on “your view of things.”
Q: How does it work?
A: What Vu is, is a cloud-based digital profiling and analytics system. What we can do is take a consumer and distill that consumer’s content consumption history into certain interests or topics. We can use those topics and interests to deliver different kinds of recommendations. We can deliver something that you’re looking for without search from anywhere on the web and we do that using predictive analytics or we can discover things for you’re interested in but maybe weren’t aware were out there. We can take — using comparative analytics — someone similar who has all the same interests that you have but they’re looking at things that maybe you’re not on the Web and we can deliver those to you, as well.
Q: I know you’ve got Google Analytics and Facebook so has this kind of technology been tried before by other companies?
A: If you think of Google and Google Analytics… you tell them what you are looking for and they do an excellent job of finding it for you. We attempt to bring things to you without search necessarily.
Q: So it would be similar to a Facebook advertisement? You have certain things on your profile and they know that so they kind of feed you ads based on your tastes and preferences.
A: I think that’s a great example of one manifestation of how we could do it. We actually use Facebook Connect in a lot of our technologies. We can take what Facebook knows about you and what we know and combine that all to make sure you get very personal recommendations.
Q: Security and privacy are two big consumer concerns right now. How does Vu fit into the conversation?
A: Vu is certified by TRUSTe. The TRUSTe Certified Privacy Seal is awarded to certain businesses who successfully complete a privacy assessment and audit and implement the required changes, if any. In addition, Vu promotes transparency of profile data.
Q: Tell me about the app version.
A: It’s a very simple application, more of a test of the technology. It very simply recommends content that we know and understand that you’re interested in. Right now we are at about 130,000 downloads combined. We have projections to hit a million by the end of the year. We’ll be releasing an iPad and Google tablet version in the coming weeks. We were featured by Apple as New and Noteworthy App in eight different countries. We were also featured as an Editor’s Choice.
Q: Personalized wireless is kind of the cornerstone of the C Spire brand so how is Vu going to be a part of that?
A: We’re a 100 percent held subsidiary of C Spire so obviously there’s a close relationship, we’re an affiliate company we call ourselves. We cut our teeth on personalization as a technology and delivery of personalization as a consumer service before it became a big buzzword in the digital space. We felt like we were just a little ahead of the curve. We began to ask ourselves, “What else can we do with personalization?” Our knowledge of analytics and personal profiles and how to deliver a personal experience, that’s where Vu comes into play.
How Vu Digital works on smartphones
Vu Digital is being tested in the mobile market and is available for smartphone users through both the Apple iTunes and Google Play mobile application stores.
» New users can create a free account or connect using Facebook or Twitter.
» The menu is divided into folder tabs like Recommended Reading, Trending on Vu, Favorites and My Topics.
» Users have the option to scroll down and read recently posted articles and blogs or click and read the original posting.
» Most importantly, users can rate and share the story including their personal reaction to it (feedback ranges from “Cool” to “Yikes.”)
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