iPad magazine apps have been one of the big trends over the past year. Flipboard is the most well known and successful so far, but others have tried to get a slice of the action. News.me is a notable example, created by the same Twitter-focused stable (Betaworks) that produced TweetDeck and Bit.ly. The New York Times was also a partner. Today News.Me became a separate company and announced that it will henceforth be a free app.
Although News.me and Flipboard are similar products, their approaches are fundamentally different. News.me is a curated reading experience, whereas with Flipboard you select your reading material directly. It's ultimately a matter of personal preference which approach you prefer. But this is going to be a key point in whether News.me can gain momentum in this crowded market.
We first came across News.me at the end of last year, when the formally stealth product began to accept invite requests. It eventually went live in April of this year, with a subscription business model of 99 cents a week (or $34.99 for the year).
It's worth delving into the difference between News.me and Flipboard further, as it is - and will be - the deciding factor for many people when choosing which tablet magazine they use the most.
News.me is a curated reading experience based on who you follow on Twitter, plus other "experts" recommended by News.me who you may choose to follow. The idea is that you can then read content through the eyes of other people, which News.me hopes will take you outside of your own personal bubble. For example, if I wanted to check out what's new in the developer world (and the weather nerd community) then I might read RWW webmaster Jared Smith's News.me stream.
With Flipboard, the concept is that you select which sources or topics you want to read and Flipboard creates a "social magazine" around those choices. For example, I have chosen various Tech sources. However it's my art interests that are a good indicator of how Flipboard differs. I have 3 separate art sections in Flipboard: FlipArt (curated by the Flipboard team), my 'Art' folder from Google Reader, and my 'Art' Twitter list. While I could find art fans on News.me to follow, I would prefer to go directly to the content sources - which is what Flipboard essentially enables.
So for me, Flipboard works better - because I have diverse interests and I prefer to personalize things.
However others prefer the News.me approach. Our own Marshall Kirkpatrick gave News.me a positive review when it launched in April. He commented that "seeing the online world through different peoples' perspectives is a remarkably unique way to experience news consumption."
It remains to be seen whether News.me can gain real momentum. Flipboard has already become the clear market leader and, to be frank, its approach seems more suited to mainstream users. Like it or not, in this world personalization usually trumps empathy - especially in media.
Both News.me and Flipboard are personalized to a degree, so it's a question of emphasis. With that said, which approach do you prefer: the News.me empathetic one or the Flipboard personalized one?
Disclosure: The New York Times is a syndication partner of ReadWriteWeb.