Washington Post New Social Reader

Wow. I love this new “social reader” from the Washington Post.

Don Graham, chairman of the Washington Post company (damn smart guy who has seen a TON in the publishing world) and I talk about this.

We talk about porn, too. “I wouldn’t use this app for that,” he says.

Really interesting insights into why these IDENTITY ENGINES are going to change everything.

And if you think that Google won’t do this I have a nice bridge to sell you in San Francisco (Google is working on a new reader like this code-named “Propeller.”)

You gotta be on Facebook to try this out! Join our Google+ discussion to share your thoughts on the direction traditional media companies should take to guide themselves into the future.

Evri Jumps into the Tablet News Fray

Evri has another news reader. But this one has some seriously cool technology underneath. Here CEO Will Hunsinger gives us a bunch of reasons why its technology is better.

I’m loving this fight between a group of Flipboard competitors. Should Flipboard be scared? Yes – eventually one of these will figure out something much better than it’s doing and Evri has been working on news semantic databases for years, so this is a very good effort.

What are your thoughts thus far on the various news-aggregation tablet apps? Which are you using, and why do you feel it’s the best? Join our Google+ discussion to share your ideas and comments.

Zite Brings Personalized News Content to the iPad

Recently CNN bought Zite. Here we talk with Zite’s CEO, to find out what’s going on in this hot category and how Zite differs from the other players in the field.

There are a host of different applications that are available to help us organize and consume the content we receive on our mobile devices. Zite is one such product, and it’s quickly becoming one of the hottest and most talked about apps on the market.

“One thing that people don’t know about Zite,” explains Mark Johnson, CEO of Zite, “is that we’re almost six years old as a company, so we’ve been developing technology for all this time…so it turns out there’s a lot of great technology under the hood that allows us to figure out exactly the kinds of things you like to read and give you more of it. I think that in this world of news clutter, people don’t just want another app that’s a veneer over the RSS feeds that they’ve had in the past. They want something that is really tailored towards them.”

Zite, currently available for the iPad, personalizes the news you receive in a number of different ways. It can tap into your Google Reader or Twitter feed to see the links you and your friends share. It can display articles based on the subjects you choose from over 5,000 categories. You can give each article a thumbs up or thumbs down. And you can click on key words within articles to indicate a preference to receive more content with a similar subject matter. Each time you read an article on Zite, it learns more about your interests.

“One of the things I like to do every week,” says Johnson, “is I add a new topic on Zite that I don’t know anything about…It’s just fun to pick something that’s current and say, ‘Huh, I’m going to learn something new.’ It’s sort of like your search vs. sift thing. It’s like, ‘show me an interesting stream of information about topic X.’ That’s much different than just seeing a few web results.”

Whereas the offline world uses human editors to determine which news items are most important and deserve the most prominent placement, Zite uses algorithms that take into account your preferences as well as the buzz around each story to create the layout of pages. The more you use the app, the more customized it becomes, but Zite hopes it will prove useful right from the beginning.

“When a person first comes into the application,” explains Johnson, “you want to give them a really interesting stream of information. So one of the most important things we do at Zite is to determine the interestingness of an article and what category it falls into, so even if you’ve never personalized Zite before and we don’t know a thing about you, if you choose something like art or architecture, we should be able to give you lots of interesting articles that will allow you to start interacting with the system so we learn the kinds of things that you like.”

This article and video were printed with permission from Building 43.

Join our Zite discussion on Google+!

News360 is Changing the Content Delivery Game

Posted by Kat Armstrong.

You’ll find a lot of news apps for your iPad, but there’s virtually nothing available for Android, the iPhone, a RIM Playbook, Windows Phone 7 devices or even your desktop. News360 is changing the game. The application makes use of semantic analysis to keep you informed of major ongoing events – and to give you content that is relevant to you.

The company’s CEO took the time to talk to me about the reasons their offering is something that you’re going to want. This app is in a very crowded space. They’re not only having to compete with things such as Flipboard. News360 also has to watch out for stand-alone apps such as the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. What makes this particular product stand out above the crowd?

It was interesting to me to learn how different the users are based on their platform of choice. For instance, the iOS version of the app has more than 2500 very positive reviews on the App Store. This may be great for ego pumping, but these people didn’t give any real criticism or feedback. The iOS device consumers have been happy with the application, yes… but they haven’t let the company know what’s missing. What more are they looking for? What else could they need? Alternatively, the Android userbase has been much more vocal. More than 100 people have written in to discuss what they feel the app may be missing in terms of features and functionality. My theory (and this has definitely not been proven scientifically!) is that the people attracted to Android devices are often geekier in nature and more of the early-adopter crowd. Another issue is that there are SO many apps out there for my iOS device that I cannot pay attention to any one of them for long – there’s just too much demanding my time. With Android devices, I tend to become consumed by a really well-done application because there simply aren’t that many. News360 is one of those which can completely hold my attention.

There are several cool features built in to News360. Saving and sharing are simple matters using one-click buttons and menus. The cool factor begins to show when you need to learn more. You can tap on highlighted terms within article text to learn more about a company, person or location. This is the part that sucks me in… I’ll be reading a great article about some hot new company and need to find out more about the movers and shakers behind the scenes. I’ll be off in my own little world for untold amounts of time as I click around to read up on who’s who, what’s where and why things are working the way they are.

You’ll need only one tap of a button to get to your local news. The app uses your GPS or WiFi connection to pinpoint where you are. You can also set a custom location by turning off this function. This allows you to follow the news at home when you’re traveling without having to search for a link to the tv station back home.

Having a list of top categories to search is a great idea, yes. Even better is the ability News360 gives you to create your own. The semantic analysis engine can (with your permission) check out your Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and Everlook accounts to understand what your area of interests are. This allows the app to bring you stories which will be the most important to you. You can skip the social media stuff and set up your personal feed choices manually if that is more to your liking.

Which news app do you rely on each day to consume content? What about that offering keeps you coming back?

Digging an elite news source

Dave Winer has a great post about the next step in Digg clones.

This is something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about too.

What makes a great selection of links? Does it take a million people? Or only a handful.

I’ve been comparing my link blog to TechMeme and Digg and others enough to know that my links are pretty darn interesting. But there are times when I fall down on the job. When Milan is smiling at me, for instance. Or when I have chores. Or, when I have to speak, like I’m doing this morning at San Francisco State University, or with a bunch of journalists and famous VC’s on Wednesday night at a PRSA shindig in Silicon Valley.

One app in Facebook, FeedHeads, taught me that a small number of people can really pick some killer things. But one problem: that app is often down for me and I find I don’t trust it and it’s not fast like TechMeme is, so I usually default back to TechMeme.

The top shared item view in FeedHeads, though, is really much faster than Digg or TechMeme to get cool stuff up on it. Something about it is really intriguing.

Steve Gillmor has talked with me a lot about this, too. He’s noticed that if he chooses the news reading behaviors of only a handful of people that he can get much better results than if he has a larger group.

Why is that?

I think it’s because we like our news focused. So if we find a news junkie who thinks like us we’ll find that person to have high utility. If you put him in a group of other people his utility will go down and the noise we’ll have to slog through to find a good set of articles that interest us will go up.

That sure explains Digg and its problems to me. I used to love Digg. Now it’s just a stream of noise that largely duplicates what’s coming through my feed reader.

Google Reader tells me that over the past 30 days I’ve read 39,712 items and shared 1,045 items. The thing is that’s probably only about half of the good items cause I can’t read around the clock and have other things to do than just read feeds.

So, lets say I hooked up with five other people who picked the same kinds of items. We could hit nearly 100% of the feeds that I read (and we could add some other feeds). Five people could beat TechMeme. Why? TechMeme is slow. I often put stuff on my link blog before TechMeme gets it. If we had a team reading feeds around the clock we’d regularly beat TechMeme or Google News or Digg or Reddit or TailRank.

And we’d have less noise. At least if you liked the things the five of us pick. If you don’t, then Digg will look better to you.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I’m looking forward to seeing what Dave Winer does in this space. There certainly is a lot of great stuff that doesn’t get proper attention on sites like TechMeme, Digg, etc. If this effort helps great stuff get more people to read it, I’m all for it.

Question: what do you think about Digg or TechMeme or Google News or other news aggregation sites? What are you hoping to see?

FeedPressure

Wow, the feeds bloggers are working overtime. Web 2.0 Summit is going on, plus tons of other events, and things are just flowing at a rate I’ve never seen.

How does ANYONE pay attention to ANYTHING in such a high flow state?

Some things did catch my attention, though, while “J, J, J, J’ing” through more than 1,000 items (that’s the keyboard command for looking at the next item in Google Reader).

For instance, this headline: “QVC Sells 4,000 of My Balls in Five Minutes.”

Anyway, I’m reading feeds so you don’t have to.

It’s fun to race against TechMeme and see if I can find cool stuff that TechMeme hasn’t found yet.

What do you think? How am I doing on my feed blog? Does it add value to your life?

I’m trying to find the best of the feeds for you.