As 2014 kicks off, here are top apps in the news industry to watch this year.
Some of these free apps will be obvious choices for news apps, such as AP Mobile, but others such as Nextdoor may seem like unique ones. Other apps, such as Vyclone, give video editing to citizen journalists, and then there’s BuzzFeed, which approximates the Internet’s cultural zeitgeist. Be sure to add any apps you’re going to be checking out in 2014 in the comments.
Isn’t it great to use a news app and actually get original, well-sourced news? While other apps on this list are news aggregators, this app is one of the few that provides original news content. While this app works with both Android and iOS, it’s probably optimized best for a smartphone. The app lets users swipe through screens offering Top News, Sports and other trending topics such as the Syria Civil War or the Year in Review. This app is a necessity for the serious news consumer.
Google Play Newsstand
Google recently launched its Newsstand app to take the place of its old app, Currents. The experience works for both smartphones and tablets and provides access to digital magazines, blogs, RSS feeds, news agencies and gossip sites. Visually, it takes a lot from current blogs with prominent title cards paired with photos. It also gives you the Read Now or Explore options, which is a hodgepodge of everything or options for My News, My Magazines or Bookmarks. (My News is the option for all your favorite sites.) Of course, all stories can be shared via a button on the app. As you use the app, it’s supposed to figure out, through one of Google’s illustrious algorithms and your subscriptions, stories that would appeal to you.
Like many of the newer news apps, Taptu provides aggregated news content as well as pulling information from social networks. It may be hard for traditional users to love its “DJ your news” vibe, and visually it borrows from that world some bright or neon colors against a black screen. It lets users pick its poison (such as News, Business, Technology or Sports) as well as offering recommendations for CNN, TMZ or TechCrunch. Its StreamStudio allows users to have several news feeds placed into one and color-code them based on theme. Like other news aggregator apps, it also “learns” what content you like and further tweaks your stream. The app also allows users to sync content between all devices as well as share on social networks such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Some may bristle that “listicles” (basically articles of lists, according to BuzzFeed founder and Chief Executive Jonah Peretti on “The Colbert Report”) and celebrity gossip are considered news, but say what you will, BuzzFeed’s meme-baiting attracts millions of views each day. Sure, the content won’t actually teach you anything (such as “The 25 Most Epic Cat Beards of All Time,” where users pretend their cat is a beard) but it’s certainly good for five minutes of lowbrow entertainment a day. Also, it’s good to see where the I Can Haz Cheezburger journalism is heading – it’s all about eyeballs on pages. Plus, now that BuzzFeed has added an investigative journalism team, you’ll be able to get more fiber in 2014 along with the eye candy.
In the past, people would use the newspaper to advertise garage sales or find out about burglaries in their local area, but now there’s Nextdoor, a social network for neighbors. Users have to register with an actual address, as well as email address, to help create each neighborhood. The service, which comes as a mobile app and Web app, lets users post messages about crimes or suspicious people, seek help for lost pets as well as sell merchandise or look for babysitters. While it is supposed to be social and allow neighbors to finally know each other’s names, even if it’s virtually, it aims to pick up where the local newspaper has left off. For those who love hyperlocal news, this is as hyperlocal as it gets.
Vyclone is an app that lets people within 100 meters of one another take video of an event, and then sews those videos together to create edited, multi-camera angled footage. Each person, who has to have downloaded the app, uploads their video and Vyclone automatically edits it. However, if users want absolute control of the video, that may be difficult, largely because Vyclone automatically uses all video of the event regardless if that other user is someone you know or not. Users can change the video a little, including using the Remix feature which changes the placement of each person’s footage. Despite its flaws, this app gives citizen journalists a new way of recording breaking news or an important event.
Barbara E. Hernandez is a native Californian who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than a decade of experience as a professional journalist and college writing instructor. She also writes for Press:Here, NBC Bay Area’s technology blog.