It looks like we’re in the midst of a radical shift in the delivery of news – and 2013 has brought a bunch of innovative solutions to help.
The first radical shift took place thousands of years ago, I think. Imagine a time when people stayed mostly within their social units, without the means to travel – virtual or otherwise. The world beyond must have been mainly a matter of speculation.
With the invention of boats, around 3500 BC, there was likely a sudden trickle of news reports of the world beyond. It must have been radical. Imagine the sorts of questions it raised, central among them: who are we in relation to them?
Think about it, for the next many thousands of years, while the news was delivered with ever increasing regularity and grace, it still remained essentially the same: more or less uniform accounts or the world beyond. Us vs. them.
This is now changing and I would suggest we are in the midst of a second radical shift. The Internet has led to the fragmentation of news, the fragmentation of our representation of the world beyond. Not only is there an overwhelming amount of information, but there are endless perspectives on information. This second shift is bringing about a new host of questions, this time more personal: no longer is the question who are we, but who am I in relation to the world beyond?
Confronted with the multiplicity of information, everyone is faced with a choice: which news stream, or blog, or post or tweet, do I believe? And, perhaps even deeper, which type of news do I even care about? Politics? Technology? Food? Vegan or Paleo? You are defined, in many ways, by the news you consume.
This is the lofty task of news apps in 2013: to help us quickly and easily hone in on a representation of world beyond that matters most to us; that inspires us; that ignites in us what we care most about.
Which apps are on the forefront of this new shift?
My first choice in news apps for 2013 is the newly released Pulse LinkedIn.
As of last month, Pulse LinkedIn has a recommendation engine that leverages your LinkedIn profile. This means that if you’re an active LinkedIn user, the app knows a bunch about you before you tap on the first page. It gives you suggestions that will not only be based on your reading habits, but also on the evolution of your professional life. I’ve found it to be spot on in recommending articles that I’m genuinely interested in.
Secondly, given that its recommendations do not always hit the mark, the user-interface design does an excellent job helping you weed out the junk and zoom in on the good stuff. Rather than present you with one article at a time, as its competitors do, Pulse offers a readable table of contents. You can quickly view your personalized landscape and then dive into the articles that ignite your fire.
Zite is a very close second. It approaches the recommendation engine from a different, yet very compelling angle. The app reaches out to you directly to learn about your likes and dislikes. It allows you to like articles and even tags associated with an article. With your help, it gets smarter and smarter about digging through the masses to find content you’ll love. And if you’re too lazy to thumb and article up, it even apparently takes into account the length of time you stay on an article.
Secondly, Zite doesn’t just let you select publications in your browse list – it lets you select specific topics, and I mean specific. Like food? Don’t think Bon Appetit versus Cooking Light. Think Healthy Food. Or Vegan. Paleo anyone? You name a topic, Zite probably has it. Choose the topic and it will serve up articles from multiple publications on that topic. It makes your browse list more targeted and more interesting.
Flipboard is a very close runner up. In 2013, Flipboard added an innovative feature that approaches the challenge of curating news from a completely different angle, but also a very interesting one. Flipboard allows users to create their own magazines. Nightmare – you may be thinking: this only proliferates the number of news sources. But if you can connect up with someone with similar interests, you have found gold: your own personalized human curator who may be able to beat out any algorithm.
Secondly, Flipboard integrates your Facebook feed. While this doesn’t necessarily help with the lofty task of helping us to filter out all the noise, (cute dog pictures? Now that’s important news!) it does allow us to integrate our friends personal lives with our news – an world beyond that often matters most to