Nick D’Aloisio was 15 when he created Summly, and he became one of the youngest millionaires ever when he sold his tech to Yahoo two years later.
On Tuesday, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, D’Aloisio jumped on Yahoo’s stage to announce the Yahoo News Digest app.
It’s a rethink on mobile news that takes much inspiration from the old media, from the morning paper to the evening news, which is surprising considering the young age of its creator.
On stage at Yahoo’s keynote, D’Aloisio revealed the project that has occupied him throughout his final year of secondary school. Yahoo News Digest is a sleek, highly visual app that presents you with 10 or so algorithmically generated news stories from Yahoo’s network, twice a day: once in the morning, and once in the evening, in a rhythm that mimics the way people once read morning and afternoon newspapers. “We don’t think this is a new paradigm,” D’Aloisio says, in an interview with The Verge. “We just think we’ve done it right for mobile.” Yahoo selects stories for the digest using a combination of algorithms and human editors, and sends you a push notification when your digest is ready. The result is one of the best-looking, and most quietly provocative, newsreading apps we have seen in some time.
In one respect, Yahoo News Digest represents the continuation of an effort to rethink news consumption that D’Aloisio began when he started Summly at the age of 15. But the app is also a radical departure from Yahoo’s usual style. For starters, it eschews personalization in favor of strict curation — everyone in the United States will receive the same digest, regardless of their location. “We’re not saying these are things you’re going to be interested in,” D’Aloisio says. “We’re saying, these are the things you need to know about.” And at a higher level, News Digest offers a direct rebuke to the fundamental design principle of the Web 2.0 era — the endless scrolling feed.
In addition to the curation, News Digest has a stopping point, just like newspapers. You can keep scrolling past that point, but the app is designed with the sense that completing a read is satisfying. That principle runs counter to the prevailing wisdom of the Internet, but it also has a certain obvious appeal. Information overload is an issue, with more sites, devices and services competing for our attention all the time. Speaking of which, like us on Facebook.
One way in which Yahoo News Digest seems to differ from traditional papers is the depth of content. It’s difficult to imagine someone paging through the kind of long-form journalism that once distinguished the great newspapers from talking heads on television and radio. The Internet has already put content on a length diet, with attention spans shortening, and the transition to mobile devices has only exacerbated the problem.
This is something of an experiment for Yahoo, which has seen its value surge since former Google executive Marissa Mayer took over the company as CEO. The app will initially be available for the iPhone only, with a potential Android version dependent on public interest.
—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer