When Yahoo had snapped up Summly, the app that cut down verbose text to a more manageable size, from Nickj D’Alosio, we had poised ourselves for something that would focus on the succinct rather than the detailed. And sure enough, our patience was rewarded when Yahoo launched its News Digest app at CES this year. The app focused on delivering a limited number of news stories to users in an innovative interface rather than flooding them with information. Initially limited to the US, it is now available in the UK as well, and if our sources are to be believed should be making its way to other regions in the coming days.
But the question is: should we be excited about Yahoo News Digest? Well, we were able to access the app courtesy a friend in the US, and our answer is a resounding “yes.” The app puts news in a whole new perspective – it delivers about seven or eight stories to your device twice a day. No, you have no control whatsoever about what kind of stories you want to see and in which sections. There are zero customization options, apart from choosing the edition of the News Digest you want (US and UK are the only two right now). And you get no “refresh” options – the news is delivered twice and that’s that.
All of which might make one wonder what is there to like in the app. Well, honestly, getting just fewer news items makes a change from trawling through hundreds on the likes of Flipboard and Pulse. Then there is the rather large matter of interface. The app comes with a slick design – the picture accompanying the first story is literally the ‘cover’ of the app and all you have to do is scroll down to see the stories that Yahoo thinks matter for you. To read a story in slightly more detail, just tap on it and it is here that the app’s utility comes to the fore. To start off with, you get a brief summary of the story (generally a couple of paragraphs), and then comes a wealth of content, very well organized. You see pictures and videos related to the news item, information about people and places mentioned, their locations on a map, links to articles that discuss the issue in depth, and finally, tweets about the news item. There are also references given at the end of the story, letting you check up the sources from which the summary was written. We think this really is a very handy way of presenting news, mixing summaries with details. Oh, and if your appetite for news is not sated by what the app offers, just go to the bottom of the landing page pull upwards – this reveals an additional ten to twelve stories, similarly laid out. In best news app tradition, you have the option of sharing news on mail, Facebook and Twitter.
Rounding off the app are some neat touches – a circle of spheres shows how many stories you have read (the ones which you have tapped on), you can find out just how many hours you will have to wait for the next issue of the News Digest and finally, you can also go through older issues of the News Digest to catch up what you missed. It is simple, smooth and works brilliantly. Yes, the breaking news types who want to know about things within minutes – nay, seconds – of their occurring will not fancy the twice-a-day delivery cycle, but those with a less hectic view of the world around them will find it very handy indeed, and a welcome change from the deluge handed out by other apps. We only wish there were more regional editions – are you hearing us, Yahoo?
Available from: iTunes App Store