First Impressions of Trove, WaPo’s News Aggregation Tool

Tuesday evening, Trove — a news aggregation tool out of WaPo Labs — opened for public beta. Trove pulls in news from more than 10,000 different sources to give readers a diverse tasting of news based on social connections and personal topics of interest.

Personalization at a new level

What I like about Trove is that it gives me a taste of everything, in a way I’ve never quite seen on the web. Sign-in is currently only available through Facebook Connect (other modes of login will be available later), which allows the web application to pull your likes and interests from Facebook to establish news channels.

Generally, I would get my news from the following places:

  1. Google Reader
  2. Twitter feed
  3. Facebook newsfeed
  4. Reddit
  5. A few favorite sites

Although Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook are all personalized, there are a few drawbacks to those services. Google Reader only shows me posts from certain sources to which I subscribe and posts my friends share. The sheer volume of Google Reader posts also starts to feel like a burden once your “unread count” hits that infamous 1,000+. Twitter and Facebook show you news from the brands you like/follow and the links being shared from people in your social circle. But, the problem with subscribing to brands is that they are filtering the content they share with you, meaning you’re only going to see news that is positively spun in their favor (read: PR).

Trove, on the other hand, has the best of all worlds (mostly). The channels are set by pulling in your likes and interests, but the news about those brands and themes isn’t coming from the brand itself, but multiple news outlets across the web.

For example, I “like” Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Facebook, but the only news I get about my alma mater on Facebook comes from the PR feed put out by the university, the student newspaper that I also “like” and the local San Luis Obispo newspaper. But with Trove, I get the top news about Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from other news outlets too, without having to actively seek it out (like this OC Register article). In a way, it’s like a curated Google Alerts, without the annoying emails sent to you every day or the over-cluttered RSS subscription.

Editorial curation still at play

In addition to your personalized news, you still get the “editors’ picks” section that contains the must-read hard news stories. A few of today’s picks, for example, are: Libyan Rebels Reclaim Misurata City CenterSyrian Protests Turn Deadly, Dry Ice on Mars Suggests a Once-Wet Planet, and $4 A Gallon Gas Prices: Who’s to Blame?.

The team of editors choosing these stories is a credible group of four, including:

  • Greg Barber, who has worked at PBS’s NewsHour and The Washington Post
  • David Price, who has worked at iCurrent and Yahoo!
  • Hannah Rubenstein, fresh out of NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
  • Emily K. Schwartz, who has worked at Politico and NPR

So in addition to the fun, personalized news — you still get a little of what’s important, regardless of whether it’s in your channels.

Mobile access

You can access Trove from the web, iPhone, Blackberry, Android and iPad. My personal device of choice is the iPhone4, where I’ve downloaded and installed the app. It’s basically the same thing as the website, but in a more easy-to-digest format for the small iPhone screen. You have a view for the editors’ picks, a view for your channels, access to your saved articles and a search option.

Articles, which are all from external news sources, open within the in-app browser, with options to share on Facebook, Twitter and email. You can also save articles to read later or bookmark them.