From Facebook journalism to Twitter-powered newspapers, there’s no doubt that technology is influencing innovative ways to compile and consume news. Previously available on the iPhone and hitting the iPad today, News360 demonstrates that trend perfectly.
Billed as a “News discovery and analysis platform”, News360 is about more than just finding interesting news stories to read. The app’s unique selling point is the work it does to help you understand the background to stories.
Automatic hyperlinks are added to keywords in stories that you read through the app. Tap any of them and you’re presented with a dynamically created information page, containing, where available, information from Wikipedia along with all other, fresh, relevant news stories on the topic.
In many cases it works really well. Let’s say I’m reading a story about the situation in Libya and want to know more about the city of Benghazi. I just tap the word and I can read a Wikipedia excerpt complete with photos, as well as over one hundred other recent stories about it from across the Web. If you’re the kind of person who likes depth to their news, News360 could be exactly what you’re after.
The developers say that semantic analysis and natural language processing is used to automatically identify and hyperlink more than 500,000 companies, people, brands and locations within the stories. It’s not quite perfect though. Sometimes the thing you want to read more about isn’t hyperlinked, meaning that you can’t learn more within the app. Being able to choose what keywords the app builds background information on would be a good addition here. Also, sometimes the Wikipedia excerpt ends mid-sentence, with no way of loading up the full web page to read more.
News discovery is aided by integration with Facebook, Twitter, ReadItLater, Instapaper and (interestingly) TripIt. This helps find news based on your social activity. Meanwhile, turning the iPad into landscape mode brings up a scrolling display of photos that let you pick out stories based solely on their accompanying images. It’s something of a ‘lucky dip’ approach but hey, that’s the whole point of serendipity.
News360 is free to download and is well worth a look, although I get the feeling that it will be a much more enticing proposition in a few months’ time as it develops further.