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Read it and swipe: The best social news app for every reader

Caitlin McGarry | Feb. 10, 2014
There's nothing quite like unfolding a newspaper, scanning the day's headlines, and diving into a local news story or an image-rich feature. It's a wholly immersive experience that ends with your brain full of knowledge and your fingertips covered in ink.

There's nothing quite like unfolding a newspaper, scanning the day's headlines, and diving into a local news story or an image-rich feature. It's a wholly immersive experience that ends with your brain full of knowledge and your fingertips covered in ink.

But nobody's got time for that. Even I, a former newspaper reporter with an 80-year-old man's taste in reading material and liquor, prefer to get my daily news online. Luckily, a slew of new apps are competing to cater to our dwindling attention spans with snappy headlines and social sharing features. Those newsreaders, which include established players like Flipboard and upstarts like Trove, now have to fend off the latest entry: Facebook's Paper, which combines its own News Feed with news stories in a magazine-like effort at reinvention.

So how does Paper stack up to the competition and which newsreader deserves the app equivalent of a Pulitzer? (Is there such a thing?) Well, it depends on what you're looking for.

Trove
The team behind the Washington Post's once-popular Social Reader built Trove, a new iOS app to share the stories you love. Trove has a clean and simple interface that lets you dive right into the news. To get started, you sign in with Twitter or Facebook — or register a new username — and pick the topics you're interested in. Trove's algorithms will dig up stories for you to read. You can curate your own trove, or collection of stories, with news that interests you and that you want to share with friends. The personalization aspect is great. But Trove isn't the best way to stay up-to-date. The feed is chronological by time the story is added to a trove, but you can add really, really old stories to each trove. That interesting headline your friend posted an hour ago could actually be a week old. That's not really a negative factor if you're into long reads and don't care about being current, but it's annoying if you're a news junkie.

There's a social aspect — you can also see the troves curated by your Facebook and Twitter friends, if you sign in with those login credentials. But here's the deal: You know what kind of stories your friends read. You see what news articles they post on Facebook. They're usually complete crap. The upside: You can follow troves curated by celebrities, which offers some insight into what famous people are reading.

Best app for: Long-read addicts and people who trust their friends.

Prismatic
Prismatic reinvented itself in December as an iOS newsreader based on your interests. Ideally, you start with 10 topics you're really into, and then follow more genres or people as you figure out what kind of stories you want to read. Prismatic also recommends interests to you based on your Twitter or Facebook followers and friends, or on what people near you like (apparently subways, Jay Z, and Canada are popular interests in New York). The topics can drill down pretty deeply — if you only care about pianos, then Prismatic will show you all the piano-related news your heart desires. There are about 10,000 interests to choose from so far.

 

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