Picture 842 Readness: A Last.fm for News. Now why hasnt this been done before?Over the last week or so I’ve been testing a new social news service called Readness. The site installs a browser plugin that tracks (or scrobbles) what you’re reading online and instantly delivers high quality recommendations based on what you and your friends read.

If you’re anything like me, you’re already excited and wondering why this hasn’t been done before.

The app, built the UK based developer of popular iPhone newsreader Broadersheet, is currently in stealth mode so expect hiccups, but for a preview release it’s already slotted neatly into my list of favorite tools (must make a list of them one day).

So how does it really work.

Once you’ve signed up (via Facebook) and installed the plugin (Chrome only at the moment), it will scrobble all the articles you read from a select white list of publishers. You can make those read articles public or private on your profile by default but you are also given 15 minutes after you’ve read an article to remove it from your profile if you’d rather not include that particular article as ‘scrobbled’. Of course, every article you visit you don’t necessarily actually read so plans to also only scrobble articles you’ve been reading for a few minutes are on the way.

The real magic happens once you visit Readness.com again after some time browsing your favorite news sources. You find 5 tabs; breaking, top, history, starred, upcoming and social. Each with potential to give you an in depth overview of news that is either breaking, top, (your) history (of stories read), (your) starred (stories), upcoming stories or social (what your friends are reading). I say “with potential” because the success of the app dependents a great deal on how many people actually end up using it but for the sake of stopping this article right now, lets propose this does see some uptake. The potential to be a disruptive authority for what is actually being read online (and in real time) is all here.

Picture 841 500x380 Readness: A Last.fm for News. Now why hasnt this been done before?

The other exciting aspect to Readness is when you take a glimpse at your profile. You’re given an in depth overview of the topics you enjoy reading (although you can’t see them in my profile just yet), sources you read most, recent starred articles, recent activity and your friends. This is pretty significant information – information companies will pay to access. And no, that isn’t Readness’ business model – far too early for that – but it is one of many ways Readness could make money once it begins to explore revenue sources. Picture 843 500x212 Readness: A Last.fm for News. Now why hasnt this been done before?

There’s no shortage of ideas for where Readness could go. From reporting to publishers on who’s reading what on their site (another potential business model), to mobile apps that provide a user with a highly customized reading experience fine tuned to them (and another potential business model).

It is however early days, heck there’s not even a logo yet and Readness.com still currently redirects to http://beta.broadersheet.com – but i’ll put my reputation on the line and say, assuming:

  • the UI and user experience is slickened up
  • extensions for other browsers are built fast
  • Broadersheet drops everything else their doing to focus just on this for now, and
  • no one else doing the same thing appears on the scene before Clark does those three things…

this could be huge.