Info-tech

Digital news, on your terms

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on July 02, 2015

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The digital news ecosystem supports all kinds of reading habits

Smartphones have dragged news organisations, kicking and screaming, into a digital revolution. Confronted with the new status quo where the mobile phone has emerged as the ultimate media delivery platform, they have been forced to compete in the cutthroat world of mobile apps.

Overnight, traditional print heavyweights turned into digital paperweights as the scale of innovation on the various app platforms overwhelmed them. The few that stuck with it doggedly and iterated furiously, made it to people’s home screens.

However, the problem with news apps from traditional media companies is that regardless of how good they are, being from a single source, they provide only a limited portion of the content that a reader might potentially be interested in. A number of them also make the crucial mistake of trying to slap some digital paint on what is essentially print-focused content.

Into that void stepped aggregators, feed readers and all manner of other digital-native news apps.

Feeds and snippets

RSS Feeds have always been the tool of choice for newshounds who require maximum control over their incoming stream. While the emergence of zero-configuration apps has all but put paid to them, Press on Android and Reeder on iOS remain the apps of choice for hardcore newshounds. Both have beautiful interfaces and a built-in simplified reading mode.

Circa was the standard-bearer for news apps that aimed to serve readers with low attention spans. Its unique model involved boiling news items down to the bare facts and presenting it as a snippet of a few sentences, with the full article available a tap away. Sadly, it ran out of VC money and was forced to down shutters. Fortunately, its Indian clone News in Shorts is still going strong. Each item takes 30 seconds to read, making the format ideal for everyone from busy businessmen to hyperactive teenagers. Yahoo News Digest also caters to the on-the-go market by delivering two packages a day featuring a comprehensive roundup of the news, sourced from multiple outlets.

Customised feeds

For readers with slightly more time on their hands, but still not enough to muck about with RSS Feeds, there’s a whole range of apps that allow you to specify your basic interests and then attempt to learn from your reading habits. Zite is the clear leader in this category thanks to its hyper-efficient algorithm and clean interface. News Republic and News360 attempt to put an image-heavy spin to the personalized curation formula, but neither can match Zite’s recommendations despite requiring more work to set up. Nuzzel has a different approach to personalization of news. It rips news editors out of the process and replaces them with your friends, pulling stories exclusively from social media feeds like Facebook and Twitter.

Experiments in storytelling

And then there’s the crop of apps that are attempting to push the envelope by completely ditching traditional news formats and inventing all new digital-focussed methods. Timeline on iOS attempts to add context to today’s news by providing historical perspective, allowing readers to track the evolution of the story. Discors, another iOS app,attempts to provide 360 degree coverage by aggregating opinion from various sources and running them alongside reports. Both apps work on the assumption that the reader wants detailed and nuanced coverage. That counts as a foolhardy strategy in the age of the listicle, but niche audiences are turning in rave reviews.

The mobile news space today is incredibly varied and stuffed to the brim with choice.

Given such a scenario, readers no longer need to kow-tow to the one size fits all approach of newspapers and magazines.

Instead, consumers of the news are now free to pick and choose from a nearly infinite shelf, attempting to find the one app that is most attuned to their reading habits.

Our ultimate advice would be to try five and keep one.

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Published on July 02, 2015
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