News Aggregator Compare-And-Contrast Review

Note: This article was originally published in the Gryphon Perspective. You can find the link to it in my About page.

Lately I have been extremely obsessive about finding the best news aggregator, as I really enjoy keeping up to date in the most beautiful way possible. I will be comparing and contrasting various news aggregators. All of them will be available on the iOS platform, although some are also available for Android. For those of you who want me to include Pulse on this list, I must protest. I can’t stand Pulse, with a crappy user interface, and there are much better options anyway. Here we go!

Google Currents

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Google has recently released its news aggregator entitled Google Currents. It is supposed to be a collection of magazine-like issues that you can read online or offline. News is organized by source, with each source being its own magazine. Google offers news groups the ability to customize their magazine’s interface, but many of them have not signed on yet. Luckily, Currents supports RSS feeds, so you can still get many of your favorite news feeds through Currents. One perk of Currents is that your whole collection and organization of sources is automatically synced across your devices through your Google account. While I enjoy Google Currents’ handy offline reading, I don’t like that news is organized by source. I prefer to organize my news by custom topics and sections, which Google Currents does not support. Google also doesn’t support sharing to Facebook or Twitter, which is a pretty important feature. The absence of this feature is understood, as Google operates their own social network, which articles are shareable to. As a result of these pitfalls, I would prefer not to use Google Currents, but there are a few things they could do to improve their aggregator. One such improvement would be integrating Google Reader’s folders, so you could organize your sources how you liked. Google Currents has a lot of potential, and I give Google credit for a great first try.

Get Currents here

Feedly

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Feedly is a news aggregator based off of Google Reader. This allows you to sync automatically across many devices, as all the data is stored in Google Reader. It supports RSS, as well as multiple folders, which means you can organize your sources however you would like. In addition, it has a web application unlike all of the other services in this review. It also has a nice reader function that condenses text into a magazine style format on its mobile applications. Unfortunately I don’t enjoy much else about it. The interface is pretty horrible, as it is not very elegant and plain. There aren’t many touch gestures, something that makes using the reader much less natural and smooth to use. Like Google Currents, Feedly doesn’t support social feeds, such as Facebook and Twitter, which would be very useful to have. One of my largest complaints is that it is hard to navigate the various layers of the aggregator. From the sources menu, you have to tap the article, open the web view, and tap the reader button once the webpage loads just to reformat the text. To close the article, you have to close each one of those layers again. While Feedly is great in concept, and has a web application, I still can’t stand using it because of its clunky interface.

Get Feedly here

Flipboard

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Flipboard is an application for iOS devices that acts as a personalized magazine, similar to Google Currents. As with Currents, Flipboard has a collection of sources that you can choose from. It is one of the few aggregators that also supports Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, and 500px almost as well as their respective clients, with the ability to access, different folders, lists, groups and such. Flipboard also has magnificent design and great touch gestures built in, so it is extremely easy to navigate your magazine without too much hassle. In addition, Flipboard allows you to create your own account, which syncs your sources and preferences across devices. As with Feedly, it takes a lot of taps to get to the web view of an article, open in Safari, and get back to the home page, but its elegant design and interface makes this manageable. In my opinion, Flipboard is the best of the aggregators, but some features could be implemented in order to make it even better.

Get Flipboard here

Flud

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Flud is a recently released news reader with a more social flavor. You can set up a profile, where information is displayed about what sources and articles you read. One of the main features of Flud is the ability to Flud articles, the equivalent of liking them. you can also “follow” other users, which means all the articles they Flud will show up in your activity feed. Flud has the best article reading interface of them all, with everything easily accessible with one or two taps. All of the other aggregators mentioned in this article have something to learn about Flud’s reading interface. Sadly, the way they organize sources can be very constraining. As someone who enjoys curating their own content and creating custom organization of feeds, I feel very constrained by Flud, which automatically organizes content sources into very generic categories such as Technology, Business, Politics, World News, Design, etc. One of the best things Flud could do is allow users to create their own custom sections, instead of being limited to a few different ones.

Get Flud here

Zite

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Zite is a very unique reader, in that you do not specify specific sources you would like to see. Instead, Zite uses an algorithm that automatically populates your screen with articles related to content you would like to see. When you read an article, you can either rate it up or down. In addition, you can ask to see more from the article’s source, or more articles with similar topics to the article you are reading. Zite is very quick to learn your preferences if you give it the information above. It also has great interface, with a reader similar to Feedly’s, which formats text on webpages in a magazine-like format. Despite these great features, there are two key pitfalls that make Zite unusable for me. First, although there are Zite accounts, they do not sync your preferences across devices. This an especially critical feature, as a user does not want to have to redo all of their hard work liking articles in order to get their personalized content. The second major pitfall is how articles are organized. As with Flud, Zite organizes articles into extremely generic groups, which are not specific enough for my tastes. Zite already incorporates specific topics and tags in its article rating system, so why not ask the user to name their own sections, and as for keywords for specific topics they would like to see. As a result of the two problems above, I can’t say I would use Zite. If they fixed those two problems, then I might use it.

Get Zite here

Comparison Table

News Reader Compatible Platforms Custom Source Organization Types of Sources Interface Design Cross Platform Syncing
Currents iOS, Android 1/5 Currents, RSS 3/5 3/5
Feedly iOS, Android, Web 3/5 RSS 2/5 1/5
Flipboard iOS 4/5 Flipboard, Google Reader (RSS), Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, 500px, 4/5 5/5
Flud iOS 2/5 Flud, RSS, Twitter, Facebook 4/5 4/5
Zite iOS 1/5 Zite 4/5 4/5

Conclusion

Overall, I would say that Flipboard is the best aggregator to use for now, but it does have some flaws. Flud comes in a close second, with its organizational issues being its downfall. All of these services have their own unique features, so it is up to you to decide. There are a few things I would like all of these applications to have, such as a stock ticker widget and Youtube feeds. In the mean time, we will have to wait and see how these competing apps up their antes. Thanks for reading!

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