October 16, 2014 Last Updated 11:02 am

Thoughts on Yahoo News Digest and other news aggregation apps

Publishers who have their own mobile news apps may wish to rethink their RSS feed approach to news in order to appeal to younger device owners

Back in the early days of TNM, I used to write often about newly released news apps. In 2010, it was far easier to see what new apps were released into the App Store, and many newspapers and magazines were just starting to release their first mobile apps (as well as their first tablet editions).

YahooND-front-iPadToday, the App Store is filled with RSS readers and news aggregation apps. One might think that many device owners would give up on the news app concept, so many are poorly designed and do not nothing unique to make them worth installing on their phones or tablets.

That has stopped Apple’s App Store team from promoting many of these aggregation news apps. Lets not beat a dead horse about the failings of the App Store team, but one must admit that they seem to be frozen in time, still recommending apps that were, frankly, not that interesting when released, but still seem to be favored by the Apple team.

But there are some unique, and popular, apps released in the past year. One of those was from Yahoo. The company’s Yahoo News Digest presents users with a different design, along with a different mission for the app.

YahooND-iPadThe concept is that the app will give you digests twice a day, once in the mooring and again in the evening. These digests are filled with news that has been summarized by Yahoo. In other words, it is an aggregation app – one that requires staff at Yahoo to select and rewrite the news. Sources are clearly labeled and come from services Yahoo are paying for: Reuters being a frequent source.

The stories are written and formatted to fit the same design, with a picture at the top, a scrolling text box underneath, then videos, tweets and then other information on the subject from Wikipedia, if appropriate.

Like many news apps, the content must fit the design and one guesses that the news stories selected are probably chosen at least to some degree for their ability to fit the design of the app.

Honestly, I am not that impressed with the app. For me, a quick glance at the home page of the NYT or some other major news source accomplishes the same thing. But I’m not the target audience for the app, and sometimes I need to remind myself of that.

Recent surveys have shown that young people prefer the app experience. Leading busy lives, they don’t mind having others aggregate their content. Having not established solid news source preferences, it matters not that the content is being aggregated by Yahoo, they see the NYT as an aggregator, too.

Most publishers are content to create mobile apps that use RSS feeds coming off their websites in their own news apps. Often this is sufficient, assuming you are a major newspaper. But how many news apps from newspapers or news websites get used? How many are driving sufficient traffic to become major sources of advertising income? Obviously, it varies tremendously.

Industry voices such as Gregg Hano at Mag+ and Joe Zeff, now at ScrollMotion, have long argued that publishers need to rethink their products for mobile and tablets, reaching their readers more often than simply once a month with a replica of their print product (even if it is “enhanced”). Looking at, and understanding, what some of the new aggregation news apps are trying to accomplish is one way to see things in a new way.

  • Matthew McQueeny 3 years ago

    I actually think the Yahoo News Digest app is great. Perfectly designed for the mobile experience, gives you a feeling of fulfillment at “finishing” the news, and provides the ability to easily delve deeper on any of subjects if you have the time.