After finding users want more than just ed-tech content, Learnist plans for expansion

Learnist may have launched out of a company focused on test prep and more formal education, but the social learning site is quickly showing that its appeal is much broader.

Since its launch about a year ago, the service, which was created by startup Grockit to enable users to curate and follow “learn boards” of videos, text and other web content focused on specific topics, has attracted about 700,000 registered users (150,000 to 200,000 are active monthly users). Each month, the company said, it receives about two million page views and has grown its traffic 30 percent week over week since its latest update last month.

But while a significant portion of its traffic goes to content relevant to K-12 teachers and students, the site is also drawing a large crowd for content unrelated to the classroom.  Co-founder Farb Nivi said that about 25 to 30 percent of the content on the site is education-related and it receives about a quarter of the total Learnist traffic. But he added that while just 6 percent of the content on the site is lifestyle-related (focusing on food, cooking, home design and other similar topics), it receives about 35 percent of the site’s traffic.

It underscores that while the site does accommodate teachers and the education-only crowd, it’s moving further away from being a typical ed tech app.

“We want to be the Instagram of knowledge-sharing,” Nivi said, adding that as it grows it plans to make it even easier for users of all types to share content and receive the bits of content most relevant to their interests, “like a smart RSS.”

Unlike a true RSS reader, the site doesn’t allow people to subscribe to blogs and news sites to get the most timely stories. But it wants to be a service that enables people to easily keep up to date on the topics they care about – from technology to art to cooking to politics – by following people and topic-focused tags. While an RSS reader only enables people to view content from sources to which they subscribe, Learnist aims to suggest and surface all kinds of crowd-sourced content that could match a user’s profile.

Now, the site has about 25 million pieces of content but, in the next twelve months, he added, Learnist plans to increase that by as much as 100 times. Last month, it removed the sign-up process, which was a big barrier to entry. Going forward, Nivi said they’re considering removing the concept of the “learn board” to simplify content sharing, as well as adding more publisher partners (now they partner with only Discovery and the BBC).

That growth could raise the amount of lower-quality content on the site. But to keep the signal to noise ratio high, the company this week added a LinkedIn-like endorsement feature to help its algorithms identify the best contributors and content and it’s playing with applying natural language processing to publisher content to help it route the best content to users.