News.me

News.me + Digg

Since we started working on Digg in June of this year (if you’re asking yourself “wtf?” you can catch up here), we have been focused on helping people find and share the most-talked about stories on the web. Starting tomorrow morning, you’ll find the best stories from Digg at the bottom of your Daily Digest in a new section called The Daily Digg (other than that and the logo, nothing else is changing). The Daily Digg will display the top three stories on Digg from the past 24 hours.

The top section of your email is not changing. You will continue to see the best of what your friends are sharing on Twitter and Facebook, alongside our best guess of “Stuff You Missed.” They will continue to be powered by the same algorithms and data.

We’re always pleased to hear that for many of our users, the Daily Digest has become a critical part of their morning routine!

Here’s a breakdown of the sections in the daily email:

Your Personal Digest — The News You Want

Every morning we look through the hundreds and thousands of links shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter and deliver the best five — the news that you just shouldn’t miss.

Stuff You Missed — The News You Haven’t Seen

These articles have specifically not been shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter. It’s our best guess at the news that you haven’t yet seen but that you’re probably interested in.

(New section!) The Daily Digg — The Most Talked-about Stories on the Web

The best of Digg from the last 24 hours and the top image of the day.

Please leave any and all feedback in the comments or get in touch at support@digg.com.

Jake

What’s Next for News.me

As of this afternoon, News.me for iPhone and News.me for iPad are no longer available in the App Store. We will continue to support the apps for existing users that have already downloaded them. The News.me email will continue to be both supported and available to users, new and current.

If you’re not familiar with the News.me applications, a bit of background: News.me analyzes the links shared by your friends, and the links shared by your friends’ friends, on both Twitter and Facebook, then presents those links in a beautiful, news-friendly reading experience on iPhone and iPad. We look at a combination of factors to determine how to rank and filter those links: First, do we think the link represents news? Second, how many of your friends have shared that link? Third, how many people have clicked on that link from across the web?

The question we were looking to answer: “the Internet is full of great things, but how do we find the things worth reading and sharing?”

Wait, that sounds awesome! Why is it going away?

A few months ago, Twitter started building products to help people discover news. This move did not come as much of a surprise to us, but it put Twitter squarely in the category of “competitor” to News.me. When Twitter rolled out its latest API guidelines, the News.me apps were deemed to be in violation of the new Display Requirements. We had a decision to make: invest meaningful resources in the News.me apps to meet the new Requirements, or pull the apps from the App Store.

Here’s what it comes down to: we don’t want to invest time and energy into an application that competes with a platform on which it relies.

So what are you going to do with all your free time?

Well, a few months ago we bought and relaunched Digg. With Digg, we’re better positioned than ever to answer the question posed above (“the Internet is full of great things, but how do we find the things worth reading and sharing?”) — to take what we learned from News.me to build the Internet’s best social news applications.

We launched about 12 weeks ago and already over 4 million people have checked out the new Digg. But what’s more shocking is that usage of the iPhone and iPad apps are close to surpassing web, and those apps didn’t exist 12 weeks ago! We’re sending millions of visits every week to great sites around the web and we’re happy to see that once again Digg is a leading referrer on charts like this. We’re working hard to deliver with Digg the experience that motivitated us to build News.me — helping people find the best stories on the Internet.

So if you haven’t yet, check out what we’ve been working on — the new Digg on iPhone, iPad and the web

Jake / @jrlevine

Human (Editor) Wanted!

For the last year, News.me has been focused on using smart networks and smart algorithms to deliver the must-read news from the social web. But if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll have noticed that we’re starting to invest in a third piece of the news puzzle: smart humans.

We’re collecting 10 million links per day across 40 million shares (!). If at this point you’re thinking, ‘I’d love to read ALL OF THAT!’ we want to talk to you.

We’re looking for an editor to help us sift through the best news on the social web and present it to our audience in new and innovative ways. You should be a news junkie with a keen eye for the shareable story and excellent editorial judgment. Familiarity with social media such as Twitter and Reddit are a must and experience working for an online technology publication is a big plus. A passion for coffee and craft beer is also appreciated. 

If this sounds like you or someone you know, please drop me a line at josh@news.me.

Developing Stories: Paperboy

A few weeks ago, we launched a new feature in our iPhone app called Paperboy. Its purpose is simple yet incredibly useful – whenever you leave home, News.me will download the latest news, so it’s ready for you whenever you want to read. Our team is based in New York City, so it’s super helpful for us when we hop on the subway. I wanted to take a few minutes to share the basics of how we did this technically. 

There are essentially two items we added to the app for Paperboy. A simple map view lets you drop a pin on your home location, which we store locally. This is a little trickier than simply rendering an MKMapView – you have to create your own class that implements the MKAnnotation protocol in order to make a pin for the map. A UILongPressGestureRecognizer allows you to pick up the pin and drop it elsewhere. For convenience sake, a simple button in the navigation bar lets you drop the pin on your current location, which we store in NSUserDefaults [your location is safe! it never leaves your phone]. Reverse geocoding gives us the address, which shows up in the main Settings view.

If you enable Paperboy, then whenever you close the app, we use geofencing [aka “region monitoring” in Apple parlance] so if you leave a pre-defined area, iOS will wake up News.me & allow us to perform the necessary steps to update your news. But don’t worry, Paperboy won’t kill your battery. From what we can discern, geofencing typically uses the coarser measure of switching cell towers to detect where you are, rather than the more expensive GPS. The downside is that if your home is a short distance from the subway, then Paperboy might not work until you get off. However, the benefits of not killing your battery by enabling the GPS 24/7 outweigh that issue.

To enable Paperboy, simply open News.me up to the Settings section [available via the left sidebar] and select Paperboy. The app will walk you through the rest of the process. From then on, you don’t have to do a thing – News.me will automagically download the news whenever you leave home!

Much love,
Rob Haining
iOS Developer at News.me

What You Need to Know, Every Morning: The New News.me Daily Briefing

The web is full of great stuff — the problem isn’t finding more, it’s finding less. At News.me we’re focused on providing a news service that delivers you less, but keeps you more informed than ever. That’s why today we’re rolling out our most significant overhaul to the News.me daily email to date.

If you haven’t yet, sign up to get your own News.me Daily Briefing

Here’s what’s you can expect every morning, in your inbox:

Your Top Stories — The News You Want

Every morning we look through the hundreds and thousands of links shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter and deliver the best five — the news that you just shouldn’t miss. 

Stuff You Missed — The News You Haven’t Seen

These articles have specifically not been shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter. It’s our best guess at the news that you haven’t yet seen but that you’re probably interested in.

Morning Report — The News You Need to Know

Why do we visit The New York Times, BBC, CNN, Reuters, or The Guardian every day? We do it because we want to stay on top of the BIG stories: Did someone win a primary somewhere? I heard something about an Earthquake. What’s going on in Syria?

This is totally impersonal news, but it’s important to us because it helps us better understand the world around us; it helps us make better decisions; it helps us stay involved and engaged in our communities.

So this meant investing in a technology that we knew little about: humans. About 6 months ago, we hired Josh Petri. Josh comes to us from Talking Points Memo, one of the web’s first and best political blogs. 

Josh spends his entire day combing through the the big stories of the day on sites like The New York Times, BBC, CNN, Reuters and The Guardian, so that you don’t have to. Guided by what’s most important according to the editors of the most reputable publishers on the web, Josh selects the three most important stories of the day.

Then he goes one step further. Josh writes short summaries — two to three sentences — so that within just a few seconds you can get caught up on the major stories of the day. Care to dig deeper? Just click the “Read more” link at the bottom of the summary for the full story.

If you haven’t yet signed up for the News.me Daily Briefing, you can get it here.

Please let us know what you think in the comments, or via email. Don’t hold back. This is just the beginning.

(Thanks to our 300+ testers who provided critical feedback over the past few months!)

Developing Stories: Custom Label iOS Library

Hello out there news fans!

At a recent Brooklyn iOS Dev Meetup, I talked about our use of Core Text in the News.me iPhone app. In building out the app, I created a subclass of UILabel that takes advantage of Core Text for more robust formatting, such as kerning, mixed fonts, & line height. I thought this might be helpful to other developers out there, so we open-sourced it, and it’s now available on Github.com.

You can use the class much like you would UILabel. I’ve only included the features that we initially needed, but as people use it, it should be pretty straightforward to extend it to incorporate other Core Text features without too much effort.

Here’s a example of using the class:

NMCustomLabel *label = [[NMCustomLabel alloc] initWithFrame:CGRectMake(0, 0, 100, 100)];
label.text = @"Tacos are <b>delicious</b>, <i>seriously</i>";
label.font = [UIFont fontWithName:@"HelveticaNeue" size:12];
label.fontBold = [UIFont fontWithName:@"HelveticaNeue-Bold" size:13];
label.fontItalic = [UIFont fontWithName:@"HelveticaNeue-LightItalic" size:12];
label.kern = -0.5;
label.textColor = [UIColor colorWithRed:153/255.0 green:153/255.0 blue:153/255.0 alpha:1.0];
label.textColorBold = [UIColor colorWithRed:53/255.0 green:53/255.0 blue:53/255.0 alpha:1.0];
label.lineHeight = 12;
[self.view addSubview:label];

Check out the project & let me know what you think – I’m @tolar on Twitter.

-Rob Haining
iOS Developer at News.me 

You may have missed…

News.me for Email turned 1-year-old last month. What started as a "companion product" has grown into one of the most engaging products we’ve ever worked on. Every morning more than 30% of our users open the email, with another 30% clicking through to read one or more story. 

As the News.me user base grows, our data set is starting to look “really interesting,” according to Chief Data Geek Mike Young. Mike tells me that we’re processing more than 50 million shares across more than 10 million unique URLs every day.

Today, we’re pleased to introduce a new addition to News.me for Email — “You might have missed…” This is where we put articles that you might find really interesting, but that you probably haven’t seen.

Where do we find these articles? We’re looking for the best news articles shared by your friends’ friends, and presenting those that we believe are new to you.

Looking for news from your “friends’ friends” is an exploration into what social scientists call “weak ties” (as opposed to the “strong ties” you have with your actual friends). Social scientists have long argued that weak ties are a greater source of new information than strong ties, since by definition you are likely to already know what your closest connections know. Our hunch is that these news articles will expose you to topics and publishers outside of your typical patterns of consumption.

So if you haven’t yet, sign up to receive News.me for Email. As always, please drop any feedback and requests in the comments or to mike.young@news.me.

Jake / @jrlevine

Getting the News — Mohamed Nanabhay

(This post is part of News.me’s ongoing series, “Getting the News.” In our efforts to understand everything about social news, we’re reaching out to writers and thinkers we like to ask them how they get their daily news. Read the first post here. See all of the posts, from writers and thinkers like Chris DixonZach Seward, and danah boydhere.)

For this week’s interview we decided to look for a completely different perspective. It’s easy to get stuck in the New York media landscape when you’re headquartered in Manhattan, but there’s a big world out there, and some of the most important innovations in media and journalism are happening outside our city, not in it. With that in mind, we spoke to Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of Online at Al-Jazeera English, the leading news source for information on the Middle East, and a rapidly growing media empire. Mohamed’s take on journalism today was invaluable. Like other media businesses, Al-Jazeera is worried about monetizing its business model — but it’s also worried about its signal being jammed, its journalists being deported, and getting into the countries it’s trying to cover. As the Arab world has changed dramatically over the last year, so has Al-Jazeera’s coverage strategies. Mohamed and the rest of his newsroom seem to effortlessly straddle the line between traditional reporting and new media. We made a long-distance call to Doha to find out how he gets his news.

 How do you get your news throughout the day?

Normally, if there’s any significant news, something big enough to warrant actually waking me up, I should get a call in the middle of the night from the Al-Jazeera newsroom. Otherwise I usually wake up in the middle of the night at some point and I’ll quickly scan my phone to see if anything crazy is happening. Typically I check Twitter just to see what’s going on. I think I have a nice diverse bunch of people, so when stuff’s happening in the Middle East, it’s generally on my news feed and I learn that stuff pretty quickly.

When I wake up in the morning, I pick up my phone again and check my email, look through Path to see if anything interesting has happened with my friends, and then I look at Twitter just to get a sense of what’s going on, and to see if anything major has happened. Once I get to work I get on my computer and start going through our website. I move at some point from consuming news on my iPhone to consuming news on my computer.

Who do you find particularly valuable on Twitter?

Sultan Al Qassemi is great. He’s from the United Arab Emirates, but during the Arab Spring, he was live-tweeting the revolution — to the extent that we would be playing out something on air and he would tweet it before we were able to tweet it. “Al-Jazeera said this thing.” Two seconds later, our tweet, saying that thing.

The other person who’s always interesting for me is Andy Carvin from NPR. Andy as well did some really amazing work during the Arab Spring. He was this one-man curator of the revolution. I always joke that after Al-Jazeera, the best source of news coming out of the Middle East is Andy Carvin.

How does your newsroom stay on top of what’s happening?

Most of our coverage is through our correspondent network, as well as people in our newsroom monitoring what’s going on via wire services or other news organizations. So we’re keeping an eye on everything, through the region and through the world. In a way we operate like other newsrooms, but particularly in the last few years we’re relying more and more on social media for picking up signals from what’s happening out there on the Internet.

Social media became a primary source, during the Arab Spring, especially for places we couldn’t get into — Libya, and Egypt at times, though of course there we also had a whole crew of reporters on the ground, but it supplemented their coverage. Now Syria is the prime example. Syria’s difficult at the moment just because they’re not letting anyone in. You don’t have journalists who are on the ground long enough to really give you a good idea of what’s going on. So we have to rely on social media and activist networks to get information out. We’ve built up strong networks of people in the country, Syrian citizens who are in there producing media, and get news out — whether it’s on the phone, or through the Internet. But it’s a very a complex environment to be operating in.

The type of reporting that has to be done in Syria, like the more traditional networks of sources and on-the-ground reporting, is rarer in Western countries because we’re just not in that kind of in environment — Syria is basically a war zone. But it’s interesting to see that you use both those traditional and new ones, through social media. It puts Al-Jazeera in a unique position.

And it’s not an easy one, right? So one of our web reporters went missing in Syria when we went in to report. She was imprisoned by the Syrians and then deported to Iran. We didn’t know where she was for weeks before we got her back. There are definitely risks reporting in these countries, during these revolutions. These are volatile and dangerous situations, not just for citizens, but also for journalists. So you can imagine for citizen-journalists, what it’s like.

Read more

Introducing Paper Boy: Automatically Download Your News Whenever You Leave Home

I’ll think we’ve all been there: you get into a subway car, and just as the doors are closing, you realize that you’ve forgotten to take your phone out, pull to refresh, and wait 10 seconds to download the latest news articles to read offline. You curse under your breath and switch back to Angry Birds.

Today we’re pleased to introduce a new feature called Paper Boy. Simply set your home location so that whenever you leave home, News.me downloads your latest news in the background. 

Download News.me for iPhone and visit Settings to enable Paper Boy.

We couldn’t be happier to launch this feature. We ride the subway every day and are more than familiar with the pain point it addresses.

Kudos to Rob Haining, subway rider extraordinaire, who came up with this idea on a Friday and had it built by the following Monday!

Love,

Team News.me