Newsgrape has rolled out a substantial update to its social news streaming platform, and it now combines community voting similar to Reddit, with so-called “smart filtering” similar to Google News.
Just to give you a brief overview of the company, Newsgrape was founded in Austria by Felix Häusler and Leo Fasbender back in 2009, raising its first funds ($16,000) through Kickstarter, followed by a seed round of $150,000 from investors across Europe and Yushan Ventures, to launch the next stage in its journey in June this year.
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Since then, the startup has brought on board some experienced advisors, such as Roman Scharf, CEO of Talenthouse. There’s also now a mobile-optimized ‘Slim’ version of Newsgrape for smartphones.
So what, exactly, does Newsgrape do?
Newsgrape offers its users a personalized news stream, which now combines articles that are currently trending on Twitter and articles that are performing well on Newsgrape into a single stream. Co-founder Fasbender says that this marks a “hugely important step” in Newsgrape’s design, as it’s striving to connect high-quality user-generated content with traditional media. Fasbender adds that it’s setting out to change the way people “experience, share and distribute written content on the Web”.
Fasbender says that it’s analyzing almost a quarter of a million articles each day from a growing number of sources, as it tailors its content to match the personal interests and preferred sources of users, while ranking articles according to their performance on Twitter and the activity inside Newsgrape.
My one small gripe with Newsgrape is the signing-up process could be a little more straight forward. Firstly, it asks for your preferred interface language, for which I selected English. It then asks for your preferred article language, for which I tried to select English, but this option was greyed out.
It transpires you can actually skip this option, but given there is a big asterisk next to it, this gives the impression it’s a compulsory field, which really confused me as to how I was meant to proceed…surely it can’t expect me to select another language which I cannot speak?
Anyway, once you’ve connected with Facebook, Twitter or Google+ during the sign-up process, you have to select the topics that interest you most…technology, soccer, sport, health, US Election and so on.
So Newsgrape surfaces hot stories…that’s nothing new in itself. But what the platform also enables is actual user-generated content, with members able to create articles from scratch.
At the time of writing, there is very little on the user-generated content front, however. When you filter by ‘User-Created’ there is only a handful of articles.
Forgetting this for now, what Newsgrape offers readers is a stream of information that combines news, facts (linked through to the Wikimedia database) and opinions or blogs. And for writers, it lets them publish directly into the system, with comments, views and votes determined by the platform and marked beside each article – only the top-performing ones appear in the global stream.
Interestingly, bloggers that use WordPress can tap a feature that connects and syncs their blogs – an actual link connects the two, even allowing for comments to be mirrored between the two pieces (optional).
“I believe in a world where information is free and available for everyone. Our mission, therefore, as we defined it early on, is to make information free and globally accessible, both online and offline,” says Fasbender. “We live in an era of constant information overload, and platforms like Facebook or even Google cause a growing threat to information freedom by filtering content not according to the relevance of the particular information, but according to parameters that are solely driven by sales and click-rates. This is not how information should be distributed and is one of the reasons we develop Newsgrape.”
It’s still early days for Newsgrape, and we’ll be keeping an eye on these guys. Meanwhile, you may also want to check out NJuice, which is a similar service in that it mines Twitter and Facebook to surface the top trending news stories, while NewsWhip Spike is more of a professional-level product for tracking the world’s most-shared stories.
Image Credit – JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/Getty Images