Trove takes another shot at social news


Trove, formerly WaPo Labs, is launching a flagship news product of the same name that promises smart news curation and aggregation. (Courtesy of Trove/Courtesy of Trove)

WaPo Labs launched its Social Reader news app in 2011 to much fanfare and hope that the development team — a part of The Washington Post Co. — had found a way to highlight quality new content on social networks. At first, things looked good: The service soared to more than 20 million users in its first year as it splashed notable articles that friends were reading across users’ Facebook news feeds.

Then Facebook changed its algorithm. And Social Reader started to fade.

So the team began work on a new product. The result, called Trove, launched Wednesday for Apple devices and is intended to offer curated news, social media and news personalization in one product.

WaPo Labs has been renamed Trove following sale of The Washington Post and other holdings of The Washington Post Co. to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos.

Trove, Slate, Foreign Policy magazine and the social marketing firm SocialCode were not included in the sale. Those properties are a part of The Post’s former parent company, renamed Graham Holdings.

But the sale allowed the team to shift away from its former role as an innovations lab for The Post’s newsroom to throwing itself fully behind its newest product, said Vijay Ravindran, chief executive of Trove and chief digital officer of Graham Holdings.

The new app relies on curation — from experts, friends and a bit of algorithmic magic — to serve news that’s most interesting to Trove users. The product’s greatest strength comes from that curation concept: Anyone can curate a topic, and anyone else can follow their lists of top articles, called Troves.

Topics can range from the broad — boxing, for example — to the very niche. Users can name their own Troves, so they can reflect their passions. One well-known curator at launch, chef Spike Mendelsohn, is handpicking articles he likes on “Farm to Table,” for example. That means that stories are being chosen by the people who have the greatest interest in those topics. And, as a bonus, users can share those articles with a short annotated note to anyone who follows their Troves, providing added insight on a topic.

Those who follow Troves are “going to get a really good signal and not a lot of noise,” said Rob Malda, Trove’s chief strategist and head of product. Plus, he said, it allows more people to benefit from the effort enthusiasts take to go through reams of information to find a nugget or two of valuable information.

Ravindran said Trove may be a better tool for news discovery than Twitter or Facebook, because it lets users more easily see what their friends and chosen experts are reading and commenting on without having to sift through anything.

“When you look at the options today, that’s a lot of work,” Ravindran said. If there’s a good article, for example, he said that “you could tweet it out, but if I don’t see in the first 29 minutes, I probably will never see it.”

Any user who had a Social Reader account will be able to transfer their topics of interest to Trove. Those who link their Facebook or Twitter accounts will also get Trove recommendations based on articles they’ve shared or the topics they’ve discussed most on those accounts.

And though the Trove name comes from a news app the group released in 2010, the developers have taken a very different direction with their latest product.

“We thought we could really build a new paradigm for how news is consumed,” Ravindran said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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