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News Readers

This is a transcript of a podcast describing Newsreaders.
Speaker Key:   PB Phil Brown, DW David Whelan

PB:  Hi, it’s Phil Brown, and I’m here with David Whelan. Today we are going to talk about newsreaders.

DW:  You may have heard the term news feeds before, and that is a slightly different technology. Today we are talking about apps that bring you news that have been aggregated from publisher-provided news feeds; these are your newspapers and magazines - things like that rather than specific topics that you would follow.

PB:  When we say apps, they are not just available on a smart phone or a tablet. They are also available on desktops and computers.

DW:  Right. The difference is that they tend to be things that are provided for you. You subscribe like you would subscribe to a magazine rather than customizing using key words and other topics.

PB:  So how do they work?

DW:  The easiest way to describe it is that you get the app or visit a website that has the news on it, choose the subscriptions that you want to use, and start to read the news. The next time you come back, the information inside the newsreader will have updated by pulling down information from your subscriptions so that you always get the latest information on your topic from those particular magazines or newspaper sites.

PB:  And the obvious question would be, aren’t they the same as an RSS feed?

DW:  In some cases you will find that an RSS feed and a newsreader will have the same content because the publisher is providing the same information. The difference is that the RSS is something that you can customize and sometimes drill down further into a website with. Typically with the publisher-provided aggregate news you are getting a slice that they want to provide to you. You may be able to choose not to have sports, for example, or not to have entertainment, but for the most part you will get whatever the publishers decided they want to push out through that channel.

PB:  One of the formerly popular newsreaders was Google reader.

DW:  Right, and I think newsreaders have really come into their own, especially on smart phones and tablets. You can access them on your desktop, but thinking about your smart phone or tablet as a consumption device where you are consuming information from places using apps like Zirca, Pulse or Zite will be an easy way for you to subscribe once and then have news sent to you. It may allow you to receive news you would not otherwise come across because it is not selected by you so much as it’s selected by the publisher.

PB:  Right, you’re selecting the topic type. Maybe it’s a technology feed that you’re following or a law feed that you’re following, and that’s most of the choice that you get, but what gets aggregated is actually chosen by someone else.

DW:  That’s right. Flipboard does it a little more fine-tuned than others. With Flipboard you get the subscriptions that you would normally sign up for with any news tool, but then you can also add RSS feeds if you want to and mix those into your information. And then you can also sign in with a social media account like Twitter or Facebook and the people that you follow, the sorts of things that they’re sharing will appear in your Flipboard feed, so it’s another way to get access to your social media accounts.

PB:  And Flipboard is a fairly common or fairly popular application that is on various tablets, phones and so on.

DW:  Right. They have partnerships with some major publishers. Just this week - it’s December 2013 - they announced a partnership with Thompson Reuters, so they’ll be pulling in all the information that Thompson Reuters has decided to put into their channel.

PB:  Right, and one of the things with Flipboard is that it is a very visual newsreader. There is a lot of video content and visual content as well.

DW:  There is another newsreader called News360, which is not as fancy. Flipboard is one of the nicest apps you can use to read news, but I like News360 because it allows you to get into very nitty-gritty topics like data mining and privacy, which aren’t as easy to access through some of the other newsreaders. The News360 staff is actually hand curating all its information in addition to their machine algorithm, so you really get some news and topics that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to get from your standard news feed.

PB:  Right. Will any of these readers get you behind the paywall?

DW:  Some of them seem to. For example, you can follow some of the paywall content using Google Currents, which is a Google app, and you subscribe to the channels that have been provided by publishers, and there aren’t a whole lot. There are only a few hundred, but some of those are paywall content, and they’ve just rolled out a new product called Google Play Newsstand, which replaces their old magazine product. In addition to the limited channel that you can get through Google Currents you can almost get a full website from paywall content sites like the New York Times and the Economist Financial Times. The difference is that once you get to the snippet or the teaser for the content when you click through, if you don’t have an account, then they’ll get you.

PB:  They’ll offer you a subscription.

DW:  There you go.

PB:  Now, these can be quite useful for aggregating content and, as you said, you can often come up with content that you wouldn’t have thought to have searched for.

DW:  Right. The real benefit of a newsreader like this, and again contrasting it with the RSS feeds where you’re selecting most of the content pretty finely, the news app or the news tool can expose you and get you outside your filter bubble so that things that you hadn’t even thought would appear in a particular publisher’s channel will appeal to you merely because you didn’t realize the content was there.

PB:  And it will… I know from playing with Flipboard a bit that you can pull down content from Facebook or people’s blogs. I mean, you can get the content from almost anywhere.

DW:  Right, and because these tools have been conceived in a social media kind of environment, almost all of these have ways for easily sharing to other people you know and sending out to your Twitter, Facebook or other social media accounts.

PB:  All right. Thanks, David.

DW:  Thank you, Phil.

PB:  That’s our look at newsreaders.

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