The nearly-forgotten sound of the newspaper landing with a thud on a doorstep is being replaced by the bright chime of a smartphone notification. Thanks to new apps, the news is once more being delivered.
The latest to jump on this trend is Flipboard, which updated its app late Wednesday evening with several new features. Notable among them is the Daily Edition, a collection of links to news stories selected by Flipboard’s editorial staff.
Structurally, the Daily Edition is what Flipboard calls a “magazine,” its term for the collections of articles, images, and videos users of its service create. Where most Flipboard magazines appear as part of the stream of material users see, though, the Daily Edition appears via a push notification.
“The Daily Edition is a concise package of what’s going on in the world,” says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue.
In some sense, it’s meant to pop the “filter bubble.” As Flipboard has added millions of user-created magazines devoted to specific topics, it’s become harder for the biggest news stories to surface.
Flipboard is following in Yahoo’s footsteps. The Web giant introduced Yahoo News Digest in January, which offers twice-a-day digests through its mobile app, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The headlines are chosen by a mix of algorithms and editors.
Circa, a San Francisco-based startup, also recently updated its own mobile news app with a digest-like feature it calls The Wire.
Circa’s most notable feature is how it breaks stories down into updates, with each update—written by Circa editors—giving just the latest developments in a story. For news topics that a user chooses to follow, Circa’s Wire displays any updates, and then mixes in other stories.
Users can set a delivery time for The Wire, or get a fresh version on demand when they open the app.
“The one thing you’ll never get from Circa is a stale brief,” says Circa CEO Matt Galligan. “We’re going to do it on your time.”
Circa’s editors decide what’s newsworthy, Galligan explains, and then “the system decides when you see it.”
What Flipboard’s Daily Edition, Yahoo News Digest, and Circa’s Wire all share is a sense of completion. Much like when you’ve leafed through the pages of a printed newspaper or finished a magazine, there’s as satisfying doneness to consuming these neat packages of news.
If you want more, there are always algorithms to pull up stories from the Internet’s endless supply. There’s something intriguing, though, to how all of these mobile news apps are picking up on the desire to read a package of news.
There may be more competition on the way. Facebook, for example, has reportedly shown interest in getting deeper into the news-distribution business. Earlier this summer, LinkedIn, which is increasingly staking its future on its media products, bought a startup called Newsle, which specialized in highly personalized email news digests. It wouldn’t be surprising to see either company bring out news digests as standalone apps or features within their mainstay offerings. Google
Not all experiments in packaging the news have been successful. The New York Times has been disappointed by the performance of NYT Now, a short, blurby news app—though that may have to do with its decision to charge a subscription fee in a world awash with free news. (Flipboard, Circa, and Yahoo News Digest are all free.) Newspapers were the original packagers of news. But it’s not clear at all that they’ll own the future of news delivery.
Lead photo by australianshepherds; screenshots courtesy of Flipboard, Circa, and Yahoo