New app Yahoo News Digest mimics newspapers – good or bad?

Yahoo News Direct

Yahoo launched a sleek new app yesterday that swims against the stream. Yahoo News Digest is a news app that curates, summarizes and neatly packages the top seven stories of the day. Well, twice a day. There’s a distinct morning edition and evening edition, and in between there’s a countdown timer that lets you know when the next edition goes live. A curated finite experience with a start and an end. Just like in the good old days of newspapers.

The result is stunning from both a design and content perspective. The app is slick, intuitive and pretty to look at. The stories include a nice summary, videos, twitter feeds, links to Wiki and other sources. It’s really a nice experience.

I’m a big believer in curation and giving the user a sense of closure versus the endless stream of content we are bombarded with on a daily basis. It’s satisfying to know you have finished something. We tried to do the same thing with the OC Register’s iPad app, where we focused on one finite evening edition. (That app has since been shut down, when new ownership came in.)

Another attempt to mimic the cadence of newspapers came from The Evening Edition, a project headed up by Miranda Mulligan, known among other things for her great design work at the Boston Globe. I just checked, and The Evening Edition appears to just have ended its run on Dec 31, 2013, so apparently that didn’t work out. So why is that?

What I’m a bit perplexed about with Yahoo News Digest, as I was for The Evening Edition, is why the artificial deadline for the morning and evening edition? For news, which is largely commodity, in a digital age where the metabolism is extremely high, people want the news on their schedule (five minutes in the bathroom, 10 minutes break in the afternoon, 30 minutes after dinner.) Why do they have to conform to an artificial deadline? For the OC Register, we felt our situation was different, because we were providing unique, local content.

Yahoo News Direct timer

Today’s lead story is about former Pentagon chief Robert Gates’ criticism of Obama over Afghanistan, and the package is neat. But it’s yesterday’s news. The biggest story of this morning is instead Chris Christie’s apparent ties to the traffic jam scandal in Fort Lee, but that’s nowhere to be found in Yahoo News Digest. Presumably it will be in the evening edition later today, but I’ll have to wait five hours to get it.

Well established news brands curate stories every day. Yahoo News Digest does too. The difference is Yahoo News Digest is sleek, includes great extras and it deliberately emphasizes the end. Other brands should and could learn from that. Then we’ll see if people are willing to wait for it.

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