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Each morning, bleary-eyed, I retrieve the newspaper, glance at the headlines and toss it on the coffee table to read later. I know I shouldn’t admit to that – in a newspaper – but I’m an avid newshound. I want to know what’s happening right now, so I reach for the iPad instead and dive into the news of the day.
At first, that meant visiting a handful of websites on Safari, Apple’s Web browser that comes installed on the iPad. It hit the usual suspects – my local paper, the Weather Channel, ESPN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN – before checking Twitter feeds to see what everyone else was reading.
Most of the apps are free, and they provide feeds from hundreds of news sources geared to your interests. Like cooking and technology? You can create a magazine with that content.
After a while, I started downloading dedicated applications from these news organizations, but I was put off by having to open and close so many apps just to check headlines, scores, traffic and the weather. It was more efficient to access the sites on Safari.
Then I discovered a bevy of news apps on iTunes – Flipboard, Pulse, SkyGrid, Taptu, Fluent News, Flud and News360 – that gather the news and display it in a form a newshound can be comfortable with: the flippable pages of a magazine.
A new one pops into the App Store every week or so. Most are created by small startups, but AOL has created one, and Google is said to be working on one, too. CNN just bought one called Zite.
I love to open Flipboard to see pictures from different sources, like The Daily Beast, Flickr and Lonely Planet. It even has catalogs. Or, I’ll put News360 into its random 360-degree mode, watch the photos scroll by and try to guess why those subjects are in the news. The other day I saw a photo of SpongeBob, so I tapped it. The headline from The Daily News of New York: “‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ causes learning problems in 4-year-olds: study.”
Most of the apps are free, and they provide feeds from hundreds of news sources geared to your interests. Like cooking and technology? You can create a magazine with that content. Many also stream social media like Facebook or Twitter along with photos, so these news magazines become one of the most enjoyable – and efficient – ways to get through a Twitter or Facebook feed. My interests immediately blossomed beyond just news, sports and weather.
On Zite, I selected photography, wine and pets. On Flud, I delve into technology, small business and advertising. Flipboard sends me to a host of lifestyle pages for travel, style, food and entertainment. I set SkyGrid up to follow my favorite sports teams. It is also a centralized stop for CNN, CNBC, Yahoo, USA Today and other top news providers.
The newest kid on the block is Editions from AOL, a free download from iTunes. Each morning, right before my eyes, a news magazine is created based on my interests. I can request national, international and local news, weather and sports, and in what order they are presented. As with a glossy magazine sent via snail mail, the cover has a label with my name and city, but it also personalizes it with a brief weather outlook. The calendar feature on Page 2 notifies me of events and birthdays and the Edition ends with a horoscope, which I admit I glance at sometimes.
Editions promises “you spend less time searching and more time reading what interests you.” And that is the appeal of these apps. This week, my 10 sections include news, technology, business, sports, entertainment, art and photography, automotive, food and cooking, health and fitness, and pets. Next week, I may select science, travel and local news.
The best one? You’ll figure that out for yourself in short order; everyone’s tastes are different. Some apps require a bit of work to set up, with passwords and the like, and news streams need to be whittled down to eliminate redundancies and Kardashians. Nothing is set in stone, and that is why the news apps hold my attention in a way print media and even television news do not.
Because I cannot possibly read in one sitting each item that captures my attention, I use buttons that let me bookmark an article, email it or save it to Read it Later (free for the basic service and USD2.99 for more features) or Instapaper (USD4.99). Both apps are available on smartphones, personal computers and tablets.
There are many more news apps to explore. For example, PressReader (free, Android and Apple devices) features 1,800 full-color, full-content newspapers and magazines from 95 countries and in 48 languages. Most content requires a paid subscription of 99 cents per issue.
Apple will introduce its own newsstand with the release of its iOS 5 update, expected in October. The Apple Newsstand will resemble iBooks, the Apple app used to buy books, and will organize magazine and newspaper app subscriptions on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
New purchases on those devices go directly to the folder on the iPhones screen and in the iTunes library, and as new issues become available, Newsstand updates them with the latest covers. That operating system update also will allow mobile Safari browsers to save items to read later offline. Articles can be saved to iCloud, a remote data storage system that recognizes a particular user, to be read on any device set up with that user’s account.
Still, the news app experience is different from reading a newspaper section by section, page by page. I feel informed, but I always have the nagging feeling that I missed something important or that I am reading the news superficially.
That is why I go back to the newsprint version during the day to seek in-depth reporting that I may have missed by skimming. Sure, I saved longer articles to read later on my apps, but I don’t always do that. At least gathering the newspapers for recycling is a reminder to glance through them to be sure I did not miss something important.
- Mickey Meece © 2011 New York Times News Service