Nuzzel update improves news discovery for those who don’t use Twitter

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Nuzzel, the content discovery service that collects and organizes links shared to Twitter and Facebook, is branching out with an update that will allow people to find stories related to their interests without having to connect to social networks. Now all they have to do is sign up for Nuzzel, follow a couple of feeds related to things they find interesting, and wait for the app to do the rest.

Nuzzel has risen in popularity over the past year because of its ability to sift through your social networks to find the most commonly shared links among those you follow or are friends with. You can also track the most shared news articles via Twitter lists or other publicly available Twitter users’ accounts. Many have said Nuzzel makes Twitter better, and should be bought by that company.

The update is being revealed alongside a new funding round with participation from executives at Mozilla, Google, and other companies. (The funding Nuzzel shared in September, which included contributions from executives at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and others, is part of the round announced today.) Nuzzel raised $1.7 million in the round and a total of roughly $5.1 million to date.

As for the update itself, Nuzzel users are likely to notice it right away. The app has been redesigned with a swipe-based navigation system that allows users to view their settings, their main feed, and other feeds they’ve decided to follow. Its search function has also been updated to look through stories and feeds, making it easier to find a specific article or blog post than it was in previous versions of the app.

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But the biggest change is Nuzzel removing the requirement that people connect to at least one social account before they could use its service, as previously mentioned. That’s still an option — social network accounts that have already been linked to Nuzzel users will remain the same — but Nuzzel’s ability to attract new users is no longer dependent on those potential users having signed up for any other service.

“The service will probably be still used the way it was before by people who login with Twitter.  That core experience is not changing much,” Nuzzel founder and chief executive Jonathan Abrams told Gigaom. “But there will be a whole set of new users who couldn’t use Nuzzel before, and they will use it a bit [differently] than the Twitter users, since their experience will involving finding relevant feeds instead of just seeing a ‘home’ feed based on their own Twitter graph of who they follow.”

Abrams said that he expects the feeds Nuzzel users will follow will be “created by influencers, experts, organizations, media companies, etc” in the future. But to kickstart the number of feeds available to users as part of this update, Nuzzel also “created a few hundred feeds” of its own. This ensures that people who don’t connect social accounts won’t struggle to find interesting things on the service.

This update follows the release of a newsletter feature that allows Nuzzel users to write short introductions to emails containing links surfaced by the service. At the time, Abrams explained that there are “probably hundreds of millions of people who would subscribe to an email newsletter but not install an app or have a Twitter account.” Nuzzel wants to appeal to that market instead of letting it lie.

So how do newsletters fit with Nuzzel’s update? “Nuzzel 2.0 and our newsletter product fit together to be part of our overall strategy to let everyone use Nuzzel, not just Twitter power users, and also become a platform for creating feeds and newsletters around any topic or community,” Abrams said. “Nuzzel 2.0 allows both web and app users to discover feeds or find them via search, and then subscribe” to the newsletters connected to those feeds via Nuzzel’s site and apps.

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All together, these recent changes make Nuzzel much more palatable to a mainstream audience. The previous version of the app didn’t just require people to have a Twitter or Facebook account — it was also predicated on the idea that people were so overwhelmed by links shared to those networks that they needed another service to sort through them all. Those are a lot of barriers to entry.

“Connecting with Twitter remains the best way to use Nuzzel, and still provides a great personalized news experience,” Abrams said. “But a lot of people don’t use Twitter, and Nuzzel 2.0 provides a new experience for those people, that also allows non-Twitter users to enjoy the power of social curation.” So it can still help quiet the cacophony of links shared to social networks, but now it could also appeal to people who have somehow managed to avoid the din of social media.

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