Trove, the personalised news service initially launched by the Washington Post, has been relaunched in what its chief executive describes as "a new paradigm for social reading".
The platform was first launched in 2011 by WaPo Labs, (which now goes by the name of Trove), and later developed into Social Reader, a Facebook app which allowed users to see what news their friends were reading.
The app had around 30 million Facebook-connected accounts, but was heavily impacted when Facebook changed its algorithm a year later.
However, rather than give up the platform, Trove chief executive Vijay Ravindran said the team decided to "redefine social reading on our own terms". And unlike its predecessor, he said the new Trove is "inherently social", allowing users to really personalise the news.
"When we share content on different social platforms, we are also trying to project a little bit of how we want to be seen by everyone around us," he said.When we share content on different social platforms, we are also trying to project a little bit of how we want to be seen by everyone around usVijay Ravindran, Trove
"I think that's an important part, in this day and age, of how we consume news," he said. "You need to be able to express yourself."
Central to the new Trove, which launched on iOS on 22 January, is the premise that human interaction makes for far more interesting and relevant reading than, to use Ravindran's words, a "faceless algorithm".
Unlike its predecessor, the new platform works around the premise of active rather than passive personalisation and introduces the role of the curator.
Anyone can become a curator by creating a 'Trove' (topic stream) and adding relevant content from around the web. Other users can then follow 'Troves' around the topics they are interested in.
"The best way to read about areas that are of interest to you is through the eyes of other people who share those interests," Ravindran explained.
For journalists, he believes Trove is an invaluable tool to develop a following around a particular topic and demonstrate expertise in a subject area.
For example, technology reporter Vivek Wadhwa, who writes for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, has more than 10,000 followers in his Advancing Technologies Trove.
And Ravindran highlighted the value of Trove's ability to narrow the focus on a particular topic or subject area.
"If I'm following you on Twitter because you write about technology and you start tweeting about sports, that's going to potentially turn me off," he said.
"In Trove, there's a lot more clarity. You can develop different audiences for different topics, making it much easier to express different facets of your personality."
However, Ravindran insists Trove is "complementary, not in competition" with other social networks. He believes the platform is also useful to help journalists find new and relevant content to share socially.
"Part of what we've observed is that people share different content on Twitter versus Facebook versus LinkedIn versus Google+," he said.
"On each of these platforms there's usually a quirk to how users are representing themselves by subject area, and to different sets of friends and followers.
"We want Trove to be the tool where you discover great content and can just as easily share it on these different platforms."
And one thing that sets Trove apart from other personalised news products, he said, is its early association with WaPo Labs, which aimed to create experimental news products with the Washington Post as its prime client.
"For the last four years the Trove team worked side-by-side with the Washington Post newsroom," he said, "and so the product has been infused with a lot of empathy for journalists, and for how they can showcase their expertise."
"The magic is in unlocking the creativity of the curators in different ways."The magic is in unlocking the creativity of the curators in different waysVijay Ravindran, Trove
At the moment, Ravindran said, the Trove team's focus is on "cultivating a community of great curators".
However, in the near future there are plans to invest in platform integration (currently Trove only integrates with Twitter and Facebook) and innovate in curation tools to allow journalists to maintain Troves "without too much legwork", said Ravindran.
He added that there are also no plans to start charging for the platform, and although it has only been just over a week since the relaunch, he says the early signs have been promising.
Trove relaunched with 15 'featured' data curators, from a US reality top chef to people in the technology industry. All accounts on the former Trove Social Reader – between one and two million monthly active users, according to Ravindran – have also been migrated over to the new platform.
"Ultimately I think we're providing a unique and powerful reading experience," he said.
"We think it has the potential to really raise the bar of the quality of content that people are sharing with each other."
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