Less than two years after the launch of its news curation platform, German start-up Piqd is expanding its presence with an international, English-language edition.
Piqd has a website and a newsletter that recommends "outstanding pieces of journalism in an accessible way" to readers, curated by journalists, academics and professionals in a number of fields.
The international edition, launched at the end of February, currently has a team of about 30 experts globally who choose articles from a variety of publishers on topics such as climate change, health, technology and politics.
Each curator makes one pick per day and a maximum of six per month, and post it with a short review of the article, an explanation of why the topic is important and why they have decided to feature it in the channel.
"We approach topics more from a cultural angle, so when we look at games for example, we don't pick articles that just introduce a new game or a game review. We look more at the impact on culture and society", said Frederik Fischer, founding and managing editor of Piqd.
Curators also link to the source of the story, but the aim is for readers to feel like they are properly informed even without having to click the link to get the full picture.
"The way our recommendations are written, they're not teasers, the essence is already in the pick and while we hope people will click on the link, that's not the goal. I think it really annoys people a lot of the time if they always get the feeling they are given a little but they have to click to really be satisfied.
"People spend so much time on Facebook for example, so one of the lessons we learned is that the way to catch people's attention with news is to write about it in a more easily accessible, blogging style.
"We wanted to combine that with the expertise of academics, journalists and professionals of any sorts."
Piqd readers don't follow individual experts to receive their picks – instead, they subscribe to topic-based channels.
The underlying principle is to avoid people feeling lost or overwhelmed by not knowing which experts to follow, so instead, readers choose the topics that interest them and the platform takes care of finding the best people who can make recommendations and explain the relevance of news.
The German version of Piqd, launched in November 2015, has 130 experts on board. Each channel has about 10 people curating content, Fischer said. Curators are chosen based on their expertise and through recommendations from other people, and they are paid €40 (£34) per pick. The platform has a separate community channel where readers can also post their own recommendations.
"When we start with a topic we look for experts in the same way you do when you're writing an article.
"But the goal of Piqd is also to make it really easy to get out of the filter bubble, so we always ask them 'who do you think is interesting even though you disagree with?'"
The newsletter is Piqd's main product, bringing in two thirds of the traffic, alongside the website, Twitter and Facebook. The German edition has just under 35,000 subscribers and an open rate of 40 to 50 per cent.
Newsletter subscribers can choose how they want to receive their picks from three available formats: a newsletter that provides all the picks from all the channels they subscribe to in full length; a shorter version which gives them one pick in full length from each channel and the rest as links; and an option to receive a round-up of picks only once a week.
The length of the newsletter and how often people receive it depends on how many channels they subscribe to. "If you subscribe to all the channels, you will definitely get it every day, but if you only subscribe to one and there is no pick on a given day, you won't get a newsletter."
Piqd, which is funded by a private investor, operates with a membership model that is linked to the personalisation aspect of the platform. Non-paying members will lose access to the newsletter 60 days after signing up unless they pay $3 (£2.43) a month, but they will still be able to access all their picks on the website for free.
Fischer said he hopes Piqd's international version will be an "even more valuable and diverse product from a user's perspective", because it won't be limited by articles published in German and with a German perspective on news.
"With all this polarisation in our society, I think it's extremely valuable to have a platform that opens up the world again. We think that by focusing not on regions but on topics, we can get people to consume all those perspectives globally."
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