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Graham Holdings launches Trove news reader

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 | 12:58 PM ET

Graham Holdings, the former owner of the Washington Post, on Wednesday launched Trove, a news reader app that aims to build on the company's understanding of how people consume news, giving users stories picked by other people who share their interests.

The app organizes articles by topics users follow and selects articles via a combination of algorithms and a board of experts picked by Trove. If users sign into Facebook or Twitter, the app will highlight topics friends are talking about on those social networks.

Trove.com app
Source: Trove.com
Trove.com app

Readers can choose to follow anyone who opts to share their favorite articles on their own Trove—the equivalent of a Pinterest board for news articles and features.

The app is launching with a selection of curators, who range Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn, to Science magazine on top science news, to Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran curating articles on the Afghan war.

Trove doesn't rely solely on experts, however, and in fact allows any user to become a curator. It is as simple as creating a Pinterest board: name a topic, write a description and what search terms you'd like Trove to use, then as you read stories, pick ones to add to your Trove.

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"We think the best way to receive news is to connect with other people who share your interests," said Vijay Ravindran, chief digital officer of Graham Holdings and CEO of Trove. "We're trying to attack the signal-to-noise problem that people are finding on these other platforms."

He is not concerned about competition from Flipboard, which recently had a fundraising round at a $800 million valuation, or Facebook's news reader, which is in the works.

"We feel like there's a lot of chaff to cut through," Ravindran said. "The human engagement is critical in our mind. You'll always do a better job than an algorithm."

Trove isn't totally new. It comes out of WaPo Labs (still part of Graham Holdings) and is an overhauled, updated version of the Washington Post Co.'s Social Reader.

Facebook aggregates news through Paper
Facebook is expected to introduce a news reader app soon. CNBC's Julia Boorstin reports on the advertising value of such products and how they keep users more engaged.

That the team behind Trove worked closely with the Washington Post newsroom for four years is a huge opportunity, according to Ravindran. "They come from a place of really valuing the work of journalists."

Though Trove will launch with ads only on its Web platform—not the mobile apps, which are likely to be more popular—the business opportunity is clear.

In addition to the addition of mobile ads targeted by interest, brands themselves could share content on Trove, just as they do on Pinterest, drawing millions of followers.

"A lot of brands are already spending a lot to develop content," Ravindran says, "and we think Trove is a very efficient way to express yourself."

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Graham Holdings says it hopes Trove will become as big a business as two of its other assets, Social ad agency SocialCode and home health-care provider Celtic Healthcare.

Users can download the app from Trove.com and watch a demo video at vimeo.com.

News readers are becoming important components of social media companies. Facebook is expected to launch one, Paper, in the coming weeks. LinkedIn has a news reader app called Pulse, and Twitter tries to make it easy for users to comment on and follow news stories.

The social media giants stand to benefit from the opportunity to target ads based on interest and from more engagement as people stick around longer to read articles rather than leaving for outside sites.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the Boston Celtics' Kris Humphries would be a curator. He was scheduled to participate, but in fact did not participate for the launch.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin.

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