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News360 2.0 Personalizes News Aggregation

News360, a news reader app available on most mobile devices and tablets, has just announced version 2.0, which adds a layer of personalization to the news shown to each user, whereas it was just an aggregator before. The update also launches a beta Web version of the service, so you can use it on the desktop. Finally, the new version adds a timeline view, which allows you to track a story’s development over time.

When News360 launched, it simply pulled in coverage of stories from multiple sources, like Google News does, as well as Twitter discussions of the topic. It offered a few ways for users to go more in-depth, with image galleries, great definitions of terms and the ability to manually add more personalized feeds by topic. It certainly provided more content than a human-curated service, like Newsy, but it lacked that human quality of editorial discernment. The new personalization layer in News360 is still automated, but it harnesses the user’s own human qualities.

The personalization in News360 uses the semantics of the articles themselves. It builds a semantic map of each story, which it compares with the user’s interest graph from Evernote, Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader in order to find stories that will interest the user. The team plans to make this interest graph shareable, too, so others can browse the stories that would interest you.

With news, there’s always the concern that personalization will create a “filter bubble,” preventing important stories from reaching the user due to an algorithm’s determination that they won’t be interesting. Recommendation-driven social networks tend to have this effect; Facebook and Google Plus tweak the stories in your feed based on your interactions with people, not necessarily your interest in the content.

But News360’s kind of personalization looks at more factors, not just where you get your news but what the stories actually say. It will take time to see if this recommendation engine can keep up with the twists and turns of the news cycle and still deliver personal recommendations, but the technology feels powerful, and it seems to serve up an interesting list of stories that feels more tailored than Google News.

The user experience is improving, and the app has a consistent feel across platforms. There sure are a lot of rounded corners, but the dark interface helps the stories and images stand out. It’s no Flipboard, as far as design goes, and that app also uses semantic data to drive its recommendations. But these apps are for different kinds of reading.

Flipboard, as well as the new AOL Editions, is just for pulling in your subscriptions to a nice reading environment. News360 is for discovering the news, which can come from any source. The outside aggregation combined with personalization is what makes News360 interesting.

There’s no doubt that the lack of human curation is good for scale, because there’s always something new to read in this app, but a small curated section, like an editors’ picks box, would add a touch of authority.

Nonetheless, the new version is a powerful aggregator that can definitely deliver the stories of the day. The app offers a good range of sharing options, and the coming feature to share one’s interest graphs could make for an interesting social layer on top of a personal yet informative experience.

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