What Makes a Good News App?

MediaShifts Dena Levitz has published a summary of her best news apps in 2015.

In a saturated market there isn’t one ingredient that can be pointed to as a prerequisite to popularity but the ability to curate and personalise your own news stream seems to be an essential element;

‘Providing a consolidated news digest was the name of the app game last year. Everyone from the New York Times, with NYT Now, to Watchup and Newsbeat, which collect articles and then showcase them to users in video and radio formats, tried it. In 2015, then, the popular path for publishers, via their mobile offerings, was to take this one step further — help make sense of global happenings or at least to make the curation more personalized, sophisticated and tailored’.

For Levitz, six apps stood out last year; Wildcard, Linkedin Pulse, Timeline, Reuters TV, Periscope and Buzzfeed News. Each has a focus on news curation but each does it differently.

Wildcard uses a staff of editors to put together cards which summarize the day’s most popular stories so that the user feels up to date with the day’s news without an extensive search for it. Linkedin Pulse uses the Linkedin database to tailor the news feed to suit the user’s career. Timeline wants to put news into context by providing additional context to current news stories. Periscope wants to be our window on the world, and while this world can often be mundane it can sometimes provide unique fly on the wall footage. Lastly Levitz picks out Buzzfeed’s news app:

‘Each morning brings with it a hand-picked selection of news stories. Beyond a worded list, though, embedded Tweets, bullet point summaries and pull quotes provide some context and bonus material. The stories don’t just come from BuzzFeed either; they represent a blend from the major publishers’.

Frédéric Fillouxs Monday Note also looks at news apps and what it is that makes a user stick with an app or delete it after a few days.

For Filloux, the branding of news items with the name of a trusted source is still of primary importance despite news aggregators and their fire hoses, but it’s not enough on its own. The trend towards user simplicity (see this video from NY times), might indicate a likely success of one interface over another, but with the constant evolution of hard and software publishers can’t afford to sit still;

‘New CPU and GPU power opens the way to more computational and graphic rendering capabilities, and hardware makers also add layers of complexity with features that are nowexpected by users —What? Your app doesn’t take advantage of 3D Touch?— even if such bells and whistles do not always make sense for a news applications’.

In conclusion, the article looks towards the app marketplace as both the route cause of difficulty and a place where solutions might be found;

‘App stores have had tremendous impact, they gave thousands of developers access to billions of smartphone users. But the system is aging badly, it buckles under the weight of roughly 3 million apps available in iOS and Android ecosystems together. For the consumer, these stores now look like thick jungles with Android being a bit more hazardous (more prone to viruses)…Publishers should be given the opportunity to pay for preferred treatment in the App Store. Apple seems to give growing consideration to the “pro” market, as exemplified by the launch of the iPad Pro, or by the care granted to Enterprise customers and its relationship with IBM. Why does the App Store lag behind’?


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