A wide range of different iPhone apps are available for reading news – whether via RSS, or another method. Today I’m taking a look at Broadersheet, a $3.99 iPhone application that aims to be your portable electronic newspaper, aggregating the content that interests you most from a range of different sources.
A few features make it stand out from the crowd: it’s intelligent, and learns which stories interest you most as you rate them, you can read stories offline, and also view a simplified version of a website – optimised for the iPhone’s screen.
I’ll be looking at these features in greater detail, and assessing whether it’s a good solution for reading news on-the-go.
Setting Up Topics & Sources
The idea behind Broadersheet is a fascinating one:
We took a step back and worked out what RSS Readers fail at. They’re great if you want to consume thousands of stories a day, but they fail at understanding you and your interests.
You set up Broadersheet by entering your favourite topics and sources, selecting whether those presented to you are appealing or unwanted.
Once you’ve worked through the quick wizard. You’ll see your first newspaper, made up of stories that Broadersheet thinks you may be interested in. If you see a story that isn’t interesting, you should tell Broadersheet.
It’s quick to mark a story as interesting or uninteresting, by swiping right or left over the story respectively. You can also invoke a “mass edit” mode to mark several stories at a time.
Broadersheet is clever, in that it learns what type of stories you do and don’t enjoy reading. The more you use the application, the more accurate it becomes – a great way to ensure your customized newspaper is as interesting as possible.
Tapping a news article will take you through to the story itself. This is the full webpage, rather than a text-online view you’d be used to with an RSS reader. Personally, I find this to be a slightly inferior solution.
Once a webpage has fully loaded, you can tap the lower right icon to convert the given page into a more readable version, optimised for the iPhone. This is a good solution, but it’s unfortunate that the entire page is required to load first.
The default topics cover a decent range: politics, technology, sport, business, lifestyle, and entertainment. But often, this doesn’t best represent the specific areas of news you’re interested in.
Adding a “custom topic” will tell Broadersheet to scour the internet for news containing that particular term. This obviously works better for a topic that is regularly covered in the news, rather than something very obscure.
It appeals as a quicker and easier alternative to manually searching for an RSS feed that matches your subject of interest.
I love the concept behind Broadersheet, and the idea of a customized newspaper is a great one. There are a few areas that I’d like to see further work on – mainly the ability to see a stripped-down version of an article without being required to first load the webpage.
In addition, although the interface is great for small numbers of articles/topics, as your number of custom topics grows, flicking through them can become a slightly lengthy process. That said, the application is still young. The concept is very promising, and it’s certainly an iPhone app I’ll be using in the future.
If you’re looking for something similar on the desktop, Fever from Shaun Inman is a web application that aims to parse though all your RSS feeds and find only the news that’s most important to you – a similar goal.
I’m looking forward to watching how news applications develop over the coming years, as software becomes more intelligent and information can be better personalised to your specific interests!