With our smartphones in our pocket wherever we go, keeping up with world headlines requires just a single tap. But standing in line at the grocery store or distractedly waiting to board a plane aren’t the most convenient times to absorb long-form news articles. We want to stay informed while on the go—but need some middle ground between 140 characters and the average length of a New York Times article.
We’ve been using the news digest app Circa (which breaks down top stories into the most important, bite-size points) since its debut in December 2012, but an app that launched at CES 2014 looks to be a potential competitor. The surprise is that it comes from Yahoo!, whose future has, ironically, been a favorite topic for media outlets since Marissa Mayer took over more than year ago.
Using Yahoo! News Digest since CES, what immediately distinguishes the app is that rather than the infinite scroll found in most feeds, there is a clear beginning and end. For example, today, 22 January, there are nine numbered stories to read; at the end of each summarized piece is a list of references should users want to explore the topic further. The app updates just twice daily, to coincide with morning and evening commutes. Rather than sift through a continuously updated news site within a web browser, it’s refreshing to read a finite number of articles—and that means saving the “down the internet rabbit hole” experience for our computers at home.
While Circa depends on a team of editors around the world to break down each article, Yahoo! has “automation summarization” technology to give it a leg up. In March 2013, Yahoo acquired the app Summly, making its founder, British computer programmer Nick D’Aloisio, a multi-millionaire before he had graduated from high school. Now Yahoo!’s Product Manager, D’Aloisio oversaw the development of Yahoo! News Digest, which built upon Summly’s algorithms. At the DLD conference in Munich, Germany (which concluded yesterday), journalist and blogger Richard Gutjahr interviewed the 18-year-old “news wunderkind” about his passion for news, whether there was a need for journalists, the main mission of Yahoo! and more. We highly recommend checking it out for a glimpse into D’Aloisio’s mind.
The Yahoo! News Digest app is available for free download on iOS devices.
Photos by Nara Shin