At this week’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, we got a sneak peek at a new Twitterized “newspaper” application for iPad called BroadFeed, just prior to its iTunes launch. Designed by marketing agency Organic, Inc., the app has publisher appeal because it won’t “steal clicks” (i.e., page views) from content providers when displaying articles your friends linked to in their tweets.
On the consumer side, BroadFeed offers several features to entice new users in this increasingly crowded “social magazine” space. It automatically works with your Twitter account and your custom Twitter lists to organize the topics based on popularity, allowing you to read the most important items first. This gives the app a level of intelligence that some of its competitors don’t have just yet.
Yes, Another Social Mag!
The iPad’s form factor has inspired a number of startups to create personalized “social magazine” experiences that re-factor the information being shared by your friends on social networks into a more magazine-like format designed for the iPad. Among BroadFeed’s competitors are FlipBoard, NewsMix, TweetMag, Zite, AOL Editions, Yahoo Livestand, paper.li, Pulse and many others, all angling to be your social magazine of choice.
In some cases, for example with the newly launched Zite application, the apps include level of intelligence which is used to rank the items they present. In other cases, there’s no intelligence, only a basic organizational arrangement of the data they source. Flipboard, the pack leader for now, acquired a semantic data startup called Ellerdale, whose smart algorithms will eventually be used to determine which updates deserve top billing. Unfortunately, it has not fully implemented this feature as of yet. That leaves room for competitors like BroadFeed to move into the space and gain traction among users who need more than good looks in their iPad mag, but also want help making sense of the overwhelming amount of information being shared on social networks today.
Highlighting the Hottest Tweets in BroadFeed
In BroadFeed’s case, the app looks only at tweets with links. It syncs with your Twitter account to arrange the information in a way that highlights the hottest topics based on a number of factors. The most popular items appear at the top of the screen in a larger box, while less popular items trail further down the page.
The app does the same thing for your Twitter lists, assuming you use that feature. If not, you’ll like the directory of popular Twitter lists BroadFeed provides, organized into categories like politics, arts and entertainment, health, sports, science and technology and more.
BroadFeed’s “Week in Review” section highlights the hottest stories from the past week by surfacing the top items from across BroadFeed’s network. You can also drill down into this data by day.
There are other great features in the app too, including a button that cleans up the publisher view into an easy-to-read “clean” format, a photo viewer for browsing images, a full screen view where you can see who originally shared the post and access options for sharing the post yourself, features for favoriting and marking items as read, and more.
Where BroadFeed needs work is on the user interface itself. While the overall design is attractive, some of the gestures didn’t work as smoothly as they could have. And any app that needs to provide a “how to use” tutorial probably isn’t as simple as it could be. These are minor complaints, however.
The app, now available in iTunes, is ad-free, but is not free to download. That said, you can at least feel good about paying for this one as proceeds from its sale (it lists for $0.99) will be donated to charities, including the American Red Cross, which is currently providing relief efforts to those affected by the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. You can download BroadFeed here.