Of information overload and bite-sized news apps

Messaging apps have morphed and grown over the last few years. They started off as simple chat platforms but have innovated constantly and kept pace with the societal trends. Today, they are vastly different from their early days – they are seen more as ‘platforms’ offering a variety of features & benefits.

While some are trying to offer a bouquet of services, some others are trying to be specialists targeted at niche groups.

Is there a similarity with how news aggregator apps have evolved over the years? Yes and no. News aggregator apps have been popular for years now, curating content based on one’s interest. Here too, there are generalists offering a personalised magazine experience across screens – Flipboard, NewsRepublic, News360, SmartNews are some of the popular apps in this genre. Among such news aggregator apps, a sub-category has emerged for bite-sized news. Thanks to proliferation of social media many feel the pressures of information overload. News flies thick and fast, updated in nano seconds, supplemented by notifications, alerts and so on. And when you take into account the combined effect of news via social media and traditional media the assault on the senses can be overwhelming. Such a situation is ripe for bite-sized news apps as they are based on a universal need to sift through the information overload.

Bite-sized news apps have taken different approaches to news delivery and have also attempted to specialise within that domain. Here are a few (by no means an exhaustive list) which caught our eye:

Yahoo News Digest: unlike other apps which refresh news constantly, this app focuses on delivering key stories twice a day.

Nuzzel: this app has gained a lot of traction recently, especially on Twitter. The recently launch of the Android version will boost its reach. It’s USP: highlighting the best news stories shared by friends on Facebook & Twitter. Features like ‘news from friends of friends’ and ‘news you may have missed’ heighten the discovery of news of interest.

Economist Espresso: The promise – ‘Espresso brings you up to speed in just a couple of minutes at the start of your day’. The app summarises key global events – ‘today’s agenda’ as they call it.

Something: a brand new entrant to the bite sized news world, ‘Something’ for iPhone is quite like Nuzzel. It also shows the best articles from one’s Twitter feed – not just as a list view but the entire article. The navigation is Tinder-like, swiping left to like and right to dislike. There is also an ephemeral nature to the item being viewed – its gone once swiped, though a shake of the phone immediately retrieves it.

Wibbitz: this app provides a video summary of the top headlines. With improved broadband speeds and affordable data plans, consumers are not hesitant to try out such apps. Also the power of audio visual medium has the potential to create far greater involvement than merely skimming through a few lines.

Umano: with smartphones accompanying us to gyms and commutes, where multi-tasking is involved, Umano attempts to provide a less intrusive way of delivering news and podcasts through audio.

Timeline: according to the creators of the app, ‘the news is the short tail of a very long string of events. Timeline weaves those events into rich, compelling stories’. The app provides context to a news event by giving an overview and a historical context.

Audvisor: though not strictly a news app, Audvisor is interesting because it is based on a similar insight as bite-sized news apps. Audvisor delivers short and powerful insights from the world’s top experts for you to listen to anytime, anywhere. The catch: each stream is no longer than 3 minutes.

There are other apps in this genre which are hugely popular: Circa,  Inside, Prismatic to name a few. Users find such apps addictive as they ‘learn’ one’s tastes & preferences and use a recommendation engine to further customise news.

As you can see, stand alone news apps, news aggregators and bite-sized news apps happily co-exist today, each delivering a certain utility addressed at different audiences. Not just apps, but mobile-focused news ventures like The Quint have launched of late. Even within the sub-domain of bite sized news apps, differentiation is possible both in terms of core promise and user interface. What’s more they all address a need to sift through information overload. And when products address such fundamental needs they are bound to find takers.

Your views? Do comment in.

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Srinidhi Rao Srinidhi has seen the evolution of the tech & mobile industry over the last decade and half. He has vast experience in project management and leads our operations in the US.

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