Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Trapit Launches Personalized Content Recommender

Trapit is today launching the beta version of its content recommendation service. The start-up calls itself a “Pandora for content,” and it’s a sister company to the virtual personal assistant app Siri, which came out of the same artificial intelligence research project at SRI International — and was bought by Apple.

Trapit users create their own content “Traps” with keywords, and subscribe to popular and trending Traps. Then content comes in through 50,000 sources that have been vetted for quality and to screen out SEO bait, content farms, and spammers.

Once users curate their Trapit sources, they can visit the site to scan through news and click through to read the actual articles on the sites where they were published. Trapit internalizes implicit and explicit signals to train its recommendations to each user.

Most of that is pretty normal practice for a personalized news site, but Trapit has an interesting approach to building its source list: Human intelligence. That doesn’t mean adding new sites by hand. What the company does is actively scan social networks for new sources of shared content and add them to its index.

Though personalized news sites have a rough track record, iPad applications like Flipboard and Zite have recently attracted attention and usage by customizing for the consumption environment of the iPad. Trapit, by contrast, is Web-only for now.

“With 25 million iPads shipped, even though it’s an exciting interface, we still believe the vast majority of of consumption is on the browser,” said Hank Nothhaft, Jr., Trapit’s chief product officer, in a phone interview. “Some of the beautiful apps demo well, but on a day-to-day basis they’re not as great for consuming.”

“Trapit is more about deep personalization,” Nothhaft continued. “The iPad stuff is more about next evolution of the RSS reader.”

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Trapit is funded with $2 million in angel funding and has 10 employees. The company eventually plans to make money through premium subscriptions and partnerships with pay-walled publishers.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work