In the past half a decade, there has been a tremendous shift in the way news is delivered to us. Twitter, as an Internet model, revolutionized the way we access information from all our favourite news sources. But there is still one huge problem with an Internet-based news model: There are too many news sources out there.
Enter the newest news delivery method: curation. Unlike an aggregator (like the Huffington Post or RSS feed, for example), news curators aren’t simply fetching articles from their favourite websites and posting them in one place. They hand-pick articles and deliver what they deem to be the most important news of the day into hand-picked packages of content.
Dave Pell is a news curator (or, as he pitches himself, a human algorithm). His universal app (and email newsletter) is called NextDraft. And his work is brilliant.
What Makes Dave Pell Different
Every day, Dave Pell goes through what I imagine must be hundreds of different news articles from a large variety of websites. He chooses ten headlines and his favourite related articles, and writes up what I believe will be the most entertaining newsletter you’ll ever read.
The difference between Dave and most other curators is that Dave has a wicked sense of humour: he’s witty, satirical and sharp. He delivers the news with an uncanny sense of what’s really important, but is never above taking jabs at the news-makers themselves. It’s that wry humour that makes reading his news not just informative, but also entertaining. And that’s what makes me, after being an email subscriber for so long, continue to go back to it.
His universal app really excites me. His iPhone app has seen some big improvements since its 1.0 release, and now the iPad app is here and it really delivers the goods as well. Instead of going the traditional route, which would be subscribing to his newsletter via email, I heartily recommend the apps instead for a more pleasurable experience.
Easy-to-Use and Easy on the Eyes
NextDraft’s UI elements are so easy to understand that a child, or your parents, could figure it out (My parents’ ability to understand an app I show them when they come to visit is quickly becoming my No. 1 guideline to an app’s ease of use). Both apps essentially display, in list format, each issue of NextDraft, with the most recent on the top and the oldest on the bottom. The iPad app really takes advantage of the additional space on the screen, with a larger UI interface and more room to breathe.
The actual layout of the app doesn’t need much review; not unlike Marco Arment’s Magazine, the app feels obvious. On the iPhone, swiping to the left or right will cycle through different news articles. On the iPad, tapping on the large grey arrows cycles through them (and swiping works as well). I do have one small gripe, which is that I don’t think the arrows Dave has included on the top right of the iPhone app are necessary. Swiping and tapping on the arrows do the same thing, so I’m not sure why both features are available.
Readability Makes It … Well, Readable!
Tapping on an embedded hyperlink brings up the original news article Dave is writing about, but sometimes, as we have all experienced, some websites aren’t exactly optimized for mobile displays. Tapping on the Chair icon in the bottom right activates a Readability mobilizer. I’m not normally a fan of mobilizers, as I usually find them slow and unwieldy, but NextDraft has by far the fastest one I’ve ever used. It’s blazing fast on my iPhone, 3rd-gen iPad and iPad Mini.
Not only that, but it’s potentially the most attractive mobilizer I’ve ever seen as well. This is extremely readable. It’s not cluttered, and the blue/green colour theme of the app never distracts. On occasion, I would find that the Title Bar would get stuck on “Loading …” or worse, flicker. I’m not really sure what causes that to happen, but it’s a relatively rare button. My only other wish is that the margins become a little wider. The lack of margins does make the text a little more intimidating than it needs to be in Readability mode. Thankfully, if the text is intimidating because of its size, you can make the font smaller or larger with just a couple taps.
Sharing Is Caring
Dave has also included the ability to share news stories via Twitter, Facebook, email and text message. You can copy his news bites to your clipboard, view articles on mobile Safari and add them to your favourite Read It Later service (he supports Instapaper, Pocket and Readability). I’d call this standard, de facto stuff in mobile apps, but it’s good it’s there.
With an app like this, it always comes back to the quality of the news curation, and it’s incredible how often my Twitter Timeline fills up with his news. That alone is a testament to a quality of what he shares with us — we want to share it because his stories are often hilarious, wild or just plain old terrifying. He covers the gamuts from politics to tech to viral Youtube videos with gusto. Sharing the news with friends can be a way to remind them how much you care about them, and I’m sure that Dave would agree: If they really cared, they’d already be reading NextDraft.
Final Thoughts: You Should Subscribe
It’s that simple. If you’re tired of checking multiple news sources for your daily dose of the world around you, let Dave handle the work. Get his apps — or if you really prefer email or RSS, go those routes. The bottom line is that NextDraft is something I feel is essential, and Dave Pell’s app is a fantastic way to get it.