Flipboard, Pulse, Zite, Flud; all free apps that you can download onto your iPad to keep you up to date with your own news interests. They will generally get their data directly from your own resources - your Twitter or Facebook account, or they'll provide you with the option of choosing subject areas, and then you can indicate if you like a subject, which will then affect the information returned in the future. You'll also find that rather than simply give a list of URLs the app will collect the original story for you and return it, so that it can simply be read on the screen. Consequently, you're creating your own magazine, split into various sections, to be read at your leisure. Let's take a look at each of these in turn.
Flipboard. If you've heard of any of these, this is the one that you'll probably be aware of. It's made up of small subject cubes, so when you open the app it'll look something like this:
What you don't get from the static image is that when you swipe across the screen, you do get a quite pleasing flip effect as the page 'turns'. Clicking on a story opens up the original tweet or status, displays the story on the screen, and links to the full story on the website. An upward swipe loads it directly for you to read. New sections can be added easily, and they're just a tap or two away:
Flipboard is generally very well regarded. It was the first of the news curation services that I used and I very impressed. However, as I've looked at other resources it's slipped down my personal list, but it's still something that I do check every evening. Since it does a good job and it's free, there is no doubt in my mind that it's worth having.
Pulse.news is another free app, and the blurb from the site says "It incorporates colorful panning story bars and fills them with content from your favorite sources. Pulse redefines news, giving you the opportunity to experience the news you desire from traditional sources, your favorite blogs and social networks – all in one beautiful interface." You can choose up to 5 pages of content, with 12 resources in each. This is one of the things that does annoy me about this one - a limit of 60 news feeds really is a limit, and not in a good way. It does look very neat however:
Pulse displays information very easily, links to full stories via the Safari browser and movement from story to story is graceful. I am slightly concerned that it does often take some time to update the newsfeeds and I sit tapping my fingers (which is unadvisable on a touchscreen, let me tell you!) waiting for the new stories to come through.
FLUD is a new resource that's only recently become available. It styles itself thus: "a modern, beautiful and personalized mobile news ecosystem with a vision to empower it's users to interact with each other to access, engage and broadcast content that is relevant to them. You probably visit hundreds of sites a week to look at content you love, but, until now it’s been a pain to do and far from classy." Well, perhaps. It looks like this:
Clicking on a story opens it in the right hand side of the screen, and you can view stories in web view (ala the page) or as straightforward text. You can also email it to other people, Facebook or tweet a story. It's easy enough to add new resources, based on RSS feeds:
You can also pull resources in from Google Reader as well, which is useful, but not uncommon, as most of the other resources also offer the same functionality. Absolutely nothing wrong with FLUD, but I think it suffers because it's the latest in an increasingly long line. It's very Pulse.news like in my opinion, and while the shifting panes of data works perfectly well, I don't find it a particularly neat or attractive way to set out data. Which brings me to my last, and preferred option.
Zite is a great app, with a very high 'wow' factor. It calls itself 'a personalised magazine that gets smarter as you use it.' I find it the most attractive of all the apps:
Your stories appear in the main body of the screen, and it always opens with the top stories culled from all your different sections, which appear on the right hand side of the screen. You can click on a link to open up the entire story to read:
Personalisation is easy, by telling the app if you like something, and it will also create on the fly subjects based on the content of the story that you're looking at. Tapping as appropriate teaches it, and I can confirm that you do get tailored results over time. It's also very easy to send the stories to colleagues, tweet, Facebook or add to your delicious account.
Adding new content is very easy:
Either choose from their readymade sections, or add your own in. You can also link a Twitter or Facebook account, though this doesn't seem to make much difference at all, so there's a question mark over that in my mind. However, I generally find the material that it returns to be useful and ontopic. There's often repetition, as it will return the same story from a variety of different resources, but that can also be useful in that it highlights what's really important, and from various viewpoints. It's my personal favourite - attractive, intuitive, easy to update, and it does learn what I'm interested in. If I could only have one app on my iPad in this category, it would be this one, without any doubt. However, since they're all free, I have all of them, and why not!
There are other, similar resources, but these tend to simply take your existing RSS feeds and display them for you. I've played around with two of them:
TheFeed is "a Google Reader client for your iPad that lets you decide how to consume all the juicy content of your feeds.The Feed’s flexible and uncluttered interface gives you a better overview of everything on the menu while a versatile filtering system and two different zoom levels make content more appetizing and digestible. And don’t worry about finishing everything on your plate: The Feed uses proportionately sized stacks to illustrate your read and unread items, rather than badges that cause unnecessary stress." It's certainly very attractive:
NewsRack is the final app that I'm looking at here. It's very similar to the look and feel of Google Reader:
and it's probably why I like it the least. They have a great opportunity to totally change the look and feel, yet, it's almost a clone. It does the job perfectly well though, and if that's what you're after, it's a reasonable choice. I have a free version, but when I looked on the site it seemed to imply you could only purchase it now. In which case - go with one of the others in my opinion.
In summary, a good news curation app will utilise the power of the iPad, provide a graceful method of reading stories, will link to and display the original information, and allow you to quickly and easily bookmark, email or otherwise share with friends and colleagues. They are however becoming a major headache from the sources of this data, since I don't actually ever have to visit those sites directly any more, so I'm not seeing the advertising that is supposed to help grease the wheels. There are already rumblings of discontent, and I fully expect these to increase in the coming months. However, the more the noise, the more valuable and useful they are. I'd happy buy these apps, with Zite being the one that I'd most easily part with money to continue to use.