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4 news apps that will change everything

Mike Elgan | June 23, 2015
I'm a huge fan of newspapers. I've been subscribing to the print edition of The New York Times since I was in college.

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I'm a huge fan of newspapers. I've been subscribing to the print edition of The New York Times since I was in college.

Newspapers always had an edge over alternative sources for news, which is that they're run by editors. That's why I also use the individual news apps from the Times, as well as The Wall Street Journal and others.

Software is great, but computers are decades away from being able to even approximate a human editor's ability to combine reason, experience, intuition, taste, judgment and other qualities in developing and presenting stories for human readers.

But I'm also a fan of socially or algorithmically curated sources of news. These have an advantage over newspapers because they can cherry pick the best stories from thousands of sources, including newspapers, magazines, blogs and social networks.

One recent example of a good socially curated news app is Kite, which is currently for iOS only. It's been called the "Instagram of News" because you follow people and get your news based on what they share. Plus you can share to other social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Another interesting advancement is Facebook's Instant Articles, which (like all content on Facebook) uses a combination of socially and algorithmically curated news stories.

Facebook's Instant Articles enable select publications (only nine at present) to build their stories directly into Facebook's iOS app. An Android version is expected this summer.

Anything Facebook does with news is, well, big news because, according to a recent Pew Research study, some 61 percent of "millennials" get their political news from Facebook.

When you tap on a news story that uses Facebook Instant Articles, the fully formatted story -- pictures, videos and all -- load instantly in the app. The reason is that they are actually pre-loaded, and also because they're not a link that switches to a browser app. In other words, you don't have to wait for the content to load or the app to switch.

Best of all for publishers, the formatting tools enable each publication's signature look, including typefaces, logos, colors and other design elements. Another benefit for publishers is that they can sell ads that will be delivered through the app, and Facebook isn't demanding a cut.

While Kite and Facebook's Instant Articles are improvements over what existed before, they still aren't likely to transform how the wider public gets their news.

But four new news apps emerged this month that will change everything.

The reason is astoundingly simple and it boils down to the human touch, literally. These apps combine the eclectic harvesting of the best content from thousands of news sources with the curating power and skills of human editors.

 

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