I don’t think I’m “Breaking News” if I say that our habits when it comes to the way we get our news everyday have changed dramatically in the past few years. While the traditional newspapers are not dead just yet, the truth is that mobile devices and specifically, mobile apps, have taken over for a lot of us.
Smartphones and tablets are now our preferred tool for news reading and to quench our thirst for constant news updates, a number of apps have become the leaders in the way they gather, personalize, aggregate and deliver news to all of us based on our individual preferences. And if you happen to be like me and also read news from selected foreign countries, these apps are just all you need.
This is a quick list of some of the most popular apps in the “News” category.
Yahoo News Digest
Yahoo supposedly paid $25M for British teenager Nick D’Aloisio’s app startup Summly, then Yahoo decided to remove it from the app market and repurposed its technology for the company’s own Yahoo News Digest app that is now available in the US and United Kingdom. It’s a twice-daily summary of “need-to-know news” drawing on several sources for text, images, charts and background information, but unlike Inside.com (see below description), the summaries at Yahoo’s app are created by algorithms.
News360 is a veteran in the world of news aggregation apps. This app focuses on learning what kind of stories you’re interested in, then adapting the articles it pulls in accordingly – while still adding regular news that the app thinks you may also be interested in after you read them. Images and video are included, with an impressively-varied selection of sources: from mainstream news sites to super-niche-but-respected outlets.
Inside.com – Breaking News
Inside.com originally launched as a curated newsletter focusing on technology industry news. This app delivers more than 1,000 stories a day, summarized (by humans) into 300-character stories, linking to the original sources. You can decide what topics you want to read about, with a simple thumbs-up / thumbs-down system to tune its recommendations according to your preferences.
Paper – Stories from Facebook
This app has evolved quite a bit in very little time. Depending on when you read this, it may have changed its focus again. For now, Facebook’s news app is only available on iPhone in the US, and depending on the success ration, it may also become available for Android users, or even users around the world. Although based on your standard Facebook friends, it also adds more of an emphasis on shared news stories around your favorite topics, rather than baby photos or quizzes. Displaying a slick, uncluttered design, it focuses on categories including technology, popular culture, memes, but also equality, environmentalism and health.
This is one of my favorites. When Google shut down its Google Reader RSS service in July 2013, Feedly became one of the main beneficiaries, as most users looked for an alternative option to keep track of stories on their favorite news sites. Feedly is a slick, easy-to-use RSS reader, working neatly across smartphones and tablets alike, with quick sharing features and the ability to add articles to read-it-later services like Pocket and Instapaper. The developer is also very active in making constant updates and improvements based on users’ input. The search option is one of the most effective I’ve seen in this type of app.
This is a fairly new app and I only came across it as it was referred to me by iTunes. Newsbeat is developed by US media company Tribune – in particular, Tribune’s Digital Ventures division. Originally, it was promoted as your “personal news radio”, as it allows you to select your favorite (text) news sources, then pulls in stories every day from them, summarizing them and using text-to-voice technology to create the equivalent of a personalized news podcast – complete with weather and traffic reports for its US users.
I haven’t used this one much but I believe it belongs to this list as well. It is similar to Inside (mentioned above) as far as having a team of editors (actual people) on staff selecting those stories that they believe are more relevant and removing “junk from facts.” Categories include US, World and Technology news –– with one of its selling points being the option to “follow” certain stories. When you do that, the app then push-notifies you when there’s been a development added into its summary. Offline reading features also make it useful when a Wi-Fi connection is not available.
Flipboard is the veteran in this field and one of the most established apps for news. The recent acquisition of one of its rivals (Zite, previously owned by CNN) made it even a stronger player. Flipboard’s goal has always been to become “your personal magazine” across your mobile devices, however, overtime, Flipboard has also added features allowing users to browse social media updates and RSS feeds. Flipboard works with traditional news providers reformats articles for smart devices, while also encouraging people to curate and share their own mini-magazines within Flipboard, drawing in stories on whatever topic they like.
Interesting for iPhone
“Be bored no more! Interesting for iPhone pulls in 1000s of articles from a hand-curated list of the best content sources on the Internet. Browse links on your favorite topics like design, technology, news, politics, sports, entertainment and more!” (That’s iTunes description of this app). On the one hand, this is another news aggregation app compiling stories from lots of websites, then sorting them into categories including technology, politics and sports. It’s clean and quick to use, but one of its most popular features (at least for some) is the way it integrates Reddit – which has lately become a very relevant source of news for a growing group of people. If you’re in the design industry, you will like the fact that there is a specific news category and it also integrates with Dribbble, the “show and tell” website for designers.
Newsy: Video News
Newsy is a multisource video news service that highlights unique perspectives from across the media spectrum—providing you what you need to know about the day’s events. As the name indicates, Newsy is about short clips of video news. To me, it is interesting how this app (and other similar options) is taking the concept of news aggregation and adapting it to video news. I would imagine that once this or a similar video news app becomes very popular, it will become a prime candidate to be swallowed by Google/YouTube, Facebook or any other major industry player. For now, it has its own space and for those who don’t care about watching news clips, the additional bandwidth requirements or other technical issues, this might be their app of choice.
This is my selected news apps list in no particular order. They all have features and options that may suit some people and not others. They are all free, so my suggestion is to download one or two, try them out for a couple of weeks, and if you’re not satisfied, simply move on to the next. If you have other favorite news apps that you would like to add to this list, please leave your comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)
Photo by Tom Spender