The parent companies of The New York Times and The Washington Post are both launching news aggregation services this week. The Washington Post Co.'s Trove.com, a hybrid human-automatic aggregator, launched today and tomorrow The New York Times Co., in collaboration with Betaworks, will unveil News.me, a social news aggregator. It's 2011 so everyone realizes it's pretty late in the game to do this, but from what's on the table it's clear both companies made significant investments into each product. Here's what they have to offer:
The first nice thing about Trove is that it's free. All you have to do is visit Trove.com and log in via Facebook Connect. The personalized news site harvests your Facebook interests and spits out a number of news stories it hopes you like.
The left column features human-curated content from news breaking around the web. The Channel Finder on the right asks you to select niche areas of interest like "organic gardening" or "Lady Gaga," and provides stories nested under those channels below. The service also has a social element letting you share channels with your friends and engage in conversations on each channel. The service is also available as an app on Android and Blackberry with iPhone and iPad apps coming later. In a strange (gutsy?) move, the Post recruited the Taiwanese animators NME to promote the service:
After a quick test drive, the site did offer a few news stories catered well to my interests (Chuck Klosterman, whose books I read voraciously, is featured in an interesting NPR story about a hoax rock band). On the downside, the service smacks of other "personalized" news sites like iGoogle and the BBC's botched custom news site, neither of which I've ever found all that useful. Still it's too soon to write off the service yet.
News.me is debuting as an application for the iPad that costs 99 cents a week or $34.99 per year. The Times developed the app in collaboration with Betaworks, a technology incubator for which the Times has provided financing. Similar to Summify, the service curates news from users' Twitter followers and promotes popular stories being shared around the web. "News.me is a newsfeed that uses artificial intelligence to monitor what people are reading and learn what they like to read; it then provides articles and links that will probably be of interest," writes the Times' Jenna Wortham. "The service will also display popular articles that are ricocheting around the Web through sites like Twitter and allow its users to save interesting articles to read later, using Instapaper, or share them through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail."
What's really unique about News.me is its business model. The service licenses content from outside content creators and pays them every time users read individual articles on their site. "On one level, its very simple. If people read your content, we send you a check at the end of the month,” said News.me CEO John Borthwick. How much that check will be we don't know yet.
An added bonus for News.me is that it allows subscribers to avoid the New York Times paywall for less than the cost of an all-digital subscription.
Will either of these aggregators take off? It's too early to say. It's encouraging to see a concerted effort by both companies to provide innovative new ways of reading the news. Time will tell if it's too little too late.