Update 7/7/17: The company contacted us upon publication of this post to emphasize the Tasted app/skill is still in development and not ready for consumer use.
The cofounder of one of the Internet’s longest standing and most storied tech media brands – CNET – is onto his next act: creating a diversified media brand for the artificial intelligence age.
Shelby Bonnie, who cofounded CNET back in 1993 and later became its chairman and CEO, is the CEO of a new publishing startup called Pylon AI, a company which describes itself as a “conversational engagement platform company.”
What does that mean? From the looks of it, Pylon aims to create diversified lifestyle content that is delivered to consumers through AI centric conversation platforms such as Alexa or Google Home or bots such as Facebook Messenger or Slack.
In a way, the company that Bonnie and other CNET alumni Mike Tatum and Cliff Lyon are creating is reminiscent of Bonnie’s last company, Whiskey Media. Only this time, instead of a collection of different web-based lifestyle media brands, Pylon AI is using a combination of apps and AI platforms like Alexa and Cortana as the content publishing system.
One of Whiskey Media’s most popular brands was tech lifestyle-focused Tested, so now it’s not all that surprising that Pylon AI’s first consumer lifestyle brand is called – you guessed it –Tasted. As the name suggests, Tasted is all about food and comes in the form of voice-assistant apps such as the Tasted Alexa skill, a companion web or iOS app.
What’s intriguing for the smart kitchen crowd is Tasted is essentially a guided cooking system, using a combination of voice assistant, web apps and mobile apps like its newly launched iOS app to help guide the consumer through the creation of a meal.
Another interesting aspect of Tasted is it employs the talents of well-known cooking personalities such as Catherine McCord, the creator of Weelicious, and Regan Cafiso, a former editor for Food Network and Martha Stewart. This idea of using popular cooking personalities is a standard playbook option to create buzz for a new platform, but what’s more intriguing is Tasted is another example of the nascent trend of established cooking talents such as Heston Blumenthal and Beth Moncel are embracing AI-centric cooking platforms to reach consumers.
A Pylon AI spokesperson told me that they are still operating in stealth mode, so the company isn’t talking about their forward-looking strategy, but my guess is that we’ll soon see other brands like Tasted in other lifestyle verticals.
For Bonnie, Pylon represents an intriguing new direction for a long-time media innovator. After creating one of the world’s most iconic tech media brands in CNET and a diversified web media brand in Whiskey, he is now looking to AI-powered conversation assistants like Alexa and Facebook Messenger as the next frontier to reach consumers.