Uber cant seem to avoid headlines for the wrong reasons right now, as it gets slammedfor itstoxic work culture, its connections toapolarizing U.S.President,and itsCEOs attitude to Uber drivers.

But despite all that, the transportation company currently valued as high as $68 billion continues to grow and has ambitions to expand its business into ever more areas. One of the latest, TechCrunch has learned, involves the app itself.

Uber wantsto turn it into a content marketplace a feed of entertainment and other features with potentially dozens of third party content partners, designed to grow engagement in the Uber app itself going beyond the basics of ordering rides and rating drivers.

According to documents seen by TechCrunch, the marketplace will be based on a new version of Trip Experiences, a smaller feature first launched a year ago with a select group of partners.

In the future, when a user gets into an Uber, the Uber app willturn into a rich feed of cards, in the words of Uber itself: a series of third-party apps will provide you with more information about the area or specific placeyou are going; some entertainment while youre travelling; work and productivity integrations; and communications with the place where you are goingspecifically.

Here are sample cards as detailed in the presentation:


The expanded marketplace, according to the presentation, is currently planned for an early April launch.

Uber declined to comment to TechCrunch about its future plans.

Initially,Uber will not charge developers to be a part of the new Trip Experiences feature, according to our source, who was provided the presentation in a capacity as a third-party developer. Another source who talked to TechCrunch said there are no plans forUber toinclude advertising in the feed.

However,there are elements of theredesigned Trip Experiences that do appear borrow from world of ad tech, as well asFacebooks app platform. It will include a carousel-like app gallery, where services and apps can be discovered by users and connected into the Uber app.

And there is a second option for re-engagement, which enables appsto submit content into the Uber Feed,if the user already has the appon their phone. This can be used to notify usersof the temperature of their smart thermostat while they are on their way home, or show ato-do list while they are headed to work all within the Uber app.

screen-shot-2017-03-06-at-11-56-49Uber is also pushing contextual engagement that might, for example, enablea Snapchat user to unlock special stickers or filters, or showcase Instagram searches of the destination they are headed to, or, in the case of Uber Pool rides, show if they share mutual Facebook friends with other passengers (presumably only if you opt in, otherwise this could prove to be a privacy nightmare).

In the case of app showcasing, Uber could provide an opportunityfor developers or companies seeking to target anaudience of relatively tech-savvy users.

Considering all of the above, you can see how arevenue share on transactions, or fee for a content partner to appear in the feed,clearlycould become a new business opportunity for Uber if this takes off.

But for now, theidea seems to be something elsethat Uber is positioning itself as havinga wider purpose for its customers, beyond providingbasic transportation from point A to point B.

It taps into the fact that Uber has a captive audience (its passengers sitting in vehicles).Uber users have completed over 2.5 billion rides to date, according to the company, with 10 million rides each day across the more than 70 countries and 400 cities where Uber is active.

And it haspotentially a very wide reach into the lives of that captive audience. Uber notes that commute time in the U.S. alone is 19 hours per month, making itsecond in time spent only to Facebook and Spotify at 21 hours/month each. Of course, not every commute is an Uber commute and that is likely another reason for building out Trip Experiences: a useful feed of information, tailored to your ride,gives Uber another way to attract users amid competition from a number of other apps and other transportation options.

Going from A to C(ontent)

Expanding Trip Experiences to take over your feed is also a natural progression of what Uber has been developing for the past year.

Trip Experiences first launched in January 2016to help Uber users fill dead time while on the move. The feature was originally focused around a select group of content it includednews from the Washington Post and Bay Area hyperlocal blog Hoodline; searching for coffee and internet-friendly cafes near your destination with Cupper and Work Hard Anywhere; podcasts timed to the duration of your journey with Otto Radio; and more.

Uber then expanded some of thatin-app activity in November 2016, when an app update brought in a feed to make the most of your ride with the ability to browse Yelp and Foursquare; play with Snapchat filters; stream Pandora songs and order Uber EATS to arrive at the same time as you do.

Uber has often been described not as a transportation but a technology company, and the growth of this content marketplace which theoretically could even be used when youre not even in an Uber vehicle underscores that. But it also, crucially, canhelp corral users back into Ubers core transportation business: developers putting content into Ubers feed can also use UbersRide Request ButtonAPI in their own apps to giveusers the option to bookUber services.

screen-shot-2017-03-06-at-11-56-32Inits pitch to developers, Uber is positioning this content play as one of its four key ways that it can help businesses grow. The other three are rides (by way of thatAPI that lets businesses integrate ordering an Uber directly into their apps); delivery-on-demand via Uber Rush; and making driving more rewarding for its drivers that is, aseparate Driver API where developers can build services that target these drivers as customers/users.

The new program will give Uber a way to widen itscontent partners, but it isnt quite an open door for all.

Uber, we understand, is working closely with selected partners who come on to the platform to ensure that what they bring is the right blend of contextual experience or entertainment, so dont expect the Uber app to be overridden with unapproved messages and services.

If Uber has its way,this could become the next big push to help tie Uber closer to your life. The big question, of course, will be whether consumers want that kind of platform growth from a company that has been in the news too much lately for how it has abused its growing power and position already.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/uber-plans-to-turn-its-app-into-a-content-marketplace-during-rides/

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