Trapit has been on the news reader scene for awhile now, bringing its user-facing app to the market, with some impressive technology behind its service. But starting today, Trapit is giving a taste of its smarts not only to readers, but to content producers by offering small and mid-sized Web publishers the opportunity to bake Trapit’s brain into their own news apps.
With the advent of mobile apps, newsreader apps have shaped today’s content consumptive ways. The articles that we read don’t always come from our favorite publications; they’re recommended based on relevance to an interest. And who we read is ultimately dictated by whom these newsreaders have decided to partner with – typically the major publishers. By in large, you could say that some mid-sized and many smaller publications are getting crowded out. So Trapit wants to change that with its Publisher Suite.
Trapit, unlike competitors such as Zite and Flipboard, has a secret sauce rooted in Artificial Intelligence that’s smart enough to not only learn about its users but also to figure out what articles its users would want to read. The more you read the smarter Trapit gets – similar to how how Pandora works. Of course Zite and Flipboard, and many other apps in this space, also pump out recommendations. So what’s the difference?
Trapit’s consumer app, co-founder Hank Nothhaf Jr. tells me, is a guinea pig of sorts for the AI that was developed with the help of DARPA at a cost of $200 million. Trapit and Siri are just a couple of products that spun out of that program. Using its AI, Trapit reads and understands the articles and figures out exactly what each user wants to read.
But the consumer app isn’t Trapit’s bread and butter – it’s the tech integrated into the app that could really give publishing partners a leg up in this market. This technology, packaged into a service for Web publishers that is sold by Trapit for $1,000 a month, is what distinguishes it from competitors. There’s been plenty of talk about monetizing curator and aggregator apps, but not a lot to show. Trapit is arguably the first to introduce such a product.
It’s an attractive proposition for the smaller publications that may or may not have been accepted by third-party newsreaders, since Trapit could provide them a solution of their own. This system gives a publisher’s own app a taste of the recommendation tech inside Trapit, so the publication’s readers will get the same personalized treatment inside of that news app that they would from using a third party reader app. Publishers can choose whether this recommended content comes from their site only, or from outside sites as well – and to answer your question in advance, sending readers elsewhere isn’t necessarily counter-intuitive; if you don’t have another content but want to provide a reader with more, than they get this complementary, outside-site material but stay within the original publisher’s app.
Of course $1,000 may give them some sticker shock, but there are some benefits to the system. If a publisher has their own ad network, they can bring this over and integrate it into Trapit’s backend. And Trapit works closely with publishers to build out a user-friendly experience. Really, the idea is that for $1,000 a month, any news app can bring a wealth of sources into its own system – it’s sort of like the slimy tactics certain sites use, but in a far more legit and user-friendly way.
If the concept is so attractive, than why haven’t other news reader apps come out with something like this? According to Nothhaf, because they aren’t focused on an ecosystem, just a singular product. He calls Flipboard a “one-trick pony” and a “bloated RSS reader.” He adds, “It’s a great trick. They’ve built an amazing and beautiful application for consuming content. In terms of surfacing and enabling personalized discovery, they are not so great.” He also hints that Trapit has garnered the interest of some major Flipboard publishing partners.
This is good news for those of us that like to flip through our favorite publisher’s app and particularly great news for partners like Here Media. Publishers can work off of Trapit’s AI to build its own version of a Flipboard or Pulse-like experience for a small price.
And Trapit offers syndicated content from around the Web that isn’t only from the publisher’s own archive. So in the case of Here Media, which owns publications including The Advocate and Out, Trapit has a network of 1,000 sources in the Publisher Suite where The Advocate editors can pick out stories from other publications to add into its app in real-time to meet the demand of today’s voracious appetite for content (in total, Trapit has a network of 100,000 sources). Or this process can be automated and pull in content not only from major publications, but smaller ones as well if the stories are relevant to users.
Trapit is certainly ahead when it comes to monetizing its platform, and has creative solutions for publishers trying to navigate this tricky space … but that doesn’t mean it’s done filling out its consumer app as well. For starters, there still isn’t an Android app. Fingers crossed, some user-facing updates are on the way as well.