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This article was published on February 10, 2011

Newsle: A mixture of Facebook and Google Alerts (Beta Invites)

Newsle: A mixture of Facebook and Google Alerts (Beta Invites)
Brodie Beta
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Brodie Beta

Brodie Beta is a technology enthusiast with a passion for gadgets, media and anything related to the Web. She has worked in communications Brodie Beta is a technology enthusiast with a passion for gadgets, media and anything related to the Web. She has worked in communications and media for the past nine years. Follow her on twitter here .

newsle-logo-small-1Newsle brings you news on the people you care about by providing a newsfeed full of information pertaining to only your friends and the people you follow.

The service enables users to import their friends from both Facebook and LinkedIn, and it will keep you updated when something is overheard about them on the web. But, it’s not just for keeping tabs on people you know, Newsle will also let you follow the public figures you like within its large database. This includes people that are celebrities, politicians, CEOs and journalists. And when something is written about the people you’ve added,  it will appear within your newsfeed.

It’s similar to creating a Google Alert, a service that will send you email notifications when a blog or a news site mentions the alert you created. However, Newsle allows you to see all of the “alerts” in one place within a very sexy user- interface.

Within the newsfeeds, the people you follow can be filtered to display everyone, only friends or just public figures, and it additionally lets users tweet, comment and vote up the posts found in the feed.


A Chat with the Founders

Earlier today we spoke with the founders of Newsle, Axel Hansen and Jonah Varon, both sophomores at Harvard studying computer science. They told us their site, which just launched in private beta mid-January, is a mixture of Facebook and Google Alerts. The team said they’ve been working on Newsle since the summer but did the majority of work this last semester from their dorm room at Harvard.

Newsle Team

We asked them to explain to us what Newsle does:

It’s where to find news about your friends. You can set it up with Facebook or LinkedIn and we will import all of your contacts and then we find news mentions of them in newspapers or blogs. And you can also follow your favourite public figures so you get this newsfeed of all the people you care about.

Where is the news aggregated from, and is the information in real-time ?

We use a large number of RSS feeds from different news sites. News sites and blogs primarily, but it looks through the whole web. It’s not exactly real-time especially since we’re tracking over 1 million people but it’s pretty close… We certainly hope to find new articles the day of.  And for public figures it’s much closer to real-time.

The team explained that “articles won’t come up the instant they are published because we can’t index the entire web instantaneously”.

How did you come up with the idea?

We wanted to figure out what are friends were doing and we couldn’t find it on Facebook, because Facebook is full of social noise and kind of unimportant news about your friends. So we wanted to find important news about your friends. It’s the core idea.

Since I’m a blogger, if someone searched me within Newsle, would they find articles that I’ve written or only posts written about me?

Ideally we want to find both actually. We say it’s “news about you” not “by you” but what we mean is, it’s real content about you, not status updates or tweets. It’s longer form stuff so yes, we’ll likely find articles you write and link it to you.

How does someone become a public figure on Newsle? Do you input them ?

We have a database of public figures but we can obviously add them. Essentially it’s if you have a large enough internet presence. It’s not from Wikipedia but if you’re on Wikipedia you’ll probably be in our system… The tech crowd is a bit over represented in our database but we have a lot of politicians and celebrities and we definitely want to expand that even more.

Do you have a mobile app or do you have a mobile strategy ?

No, but the site is mobile compatible so if you visit the site on an iPhone or iPad it should function the same way it would in a browser. We may add a mobile app in the future… Certainly at some point we’ll be making one, it’s just a question of whether we do it this month or at the end of the summer.

What other sites are doing what your doing?

I don’t think there are any, and I think that’s is our real advantage. We’re sort of filling in a gap, where there’s is nothing that really exists. We’re kind of a cross between Facebook and Google Alerts, and we take the best of both of those services… No one is going to create 600 Google Alerts for their friends, and if they did, there inbox would be flooded with all sorts of unfiltered stuff… The only other company that tried to do anything similar was this company called Angstro. It was just for LinkedIn but they did something similar where they tried to find news about your network. It never really took off, and they never really got their interface quite right. They were acquired by Google over the summer… the product got discontinued though, Google just got it just for the engineers.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Newsle?

Well.. we’re tracking the news for about a million people. That’s kind of impressive I guess.

Can you share with us your user-base, or how many sign-ups you have so far?

We’re still in private beta so you need a beta key which prevents a lot of organic growth but we’re at a little over 3000 users right now.

Hansen and Varon also shared with us that they’re working on rolling out a few new features.

We’re about to roll out a feature that will make sure we’re indexing the blogs of the people you follow, so for your own blog we’ll be checking that more often… We have a few plans to improve the commenting functionality to make it more of an interactive full featured experience.

Beta Invites!

Although the site is still in private beta, Newsle created an unlimited amount of beta invites just for our readers. For access, visit Newsle and use the beta key “thenextweb”.

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