News.me, the newsreader app hatched in The New York Times’ R&D lab and incubated at betaworks, today added a nifty feature to its new iPhone app, which gives readers instant access to their news offline — whenever they leave the house. The new feature, called Paper Boy, allows users to set their home location using their iPhone’s GPS, and thereafter, every time they leave their digs with phone in tow, News.me automatically downloads their social news in the background so that it’s ready to read offline as they go about their day.
For anyone who uses public transit to get to work and is as as a result without WiFi, PaperBoy’s value proposition should be immediately apparent. While there are hundreds of ways to check news sources, many of them only offer their content when connected to the Web. News.me General Manager Jake Levine tells us that, since News.me is located in New York City, the team often uses the city’s subway system to get around, but found themselves without anything to read while in transit.
Paper Boy was designed to eliminate this pain point, and provide subway, bus, and train commuters instant access to their news while on-the-go. Outside of Newsstand apps, Levine says that News.me is the first app to offer this functionality — to support background downloading of news content whenever readers leave their home addresses.
In the beginning, News.me’s social newsreading experience was iPad-only, offering readers an aggregated list of news stories drawn from Facebook and Twitter, curated based on signals from Twitter and bit.ly, viewable in the context of the original tweet or Facebook comment. The startup also offers a Summify-like email digest of news culled from users’ Twitter streams, which picked up quite a few users in the wake of Summify’s acquisition.
News.me’s email digest turned out to be much more in demand than its iPad app, so, in March, News.me launched a new iPhone app that completely rebuilt the app’s mobile experience from the ground up. As Anthony pointed out at launch, the real goal of re-imagining the app was to bring News.me into the realm of a news-based social network.
Leading with a feature called “Reactions,” readers now have the ability to post responses to the stories they find in their streams, with the added benefit of being able to follow other users and comment on their friends’ shared stories. The app offers five pre-written responses — “Ha!”, “Wow”, “Awesome”, “Sad”, and “Really?” — that enable them to respond to news automatically, without having to spend time creating a paragraph-long response.
The startup’s iPhone app is designed to let users share and respond to shared news quickly, while giving them a smaller microcosmic social network in which they can share their thoughts without having to post to their Facebook walls or Twitter streams. It’s an approach to news sharing that puts News.me in competition with Flud, which made a similar play into social newsreading back in December.
Without a doubt, there’s way too much noise on the Web when it comes to news shared across our social networks, and News.me has developed a fairly useful tool for channeling that noise into a signal of top news from our most-used social networks, that is pre-filtered and easy to consume. And since so many of us love to consume news while on the go — when we’re not in the driver’s seat — Paper Boy is a smart, easy way to quench our thirst for news when we lose access to WiFi. (To find it, just head to “Settings”.)
You can find News.me available for download in the App Store here.
News.me is a small team based out of betaworks in New York City, focused on building applications that improve the way people find and talk about the news. News.me is currently available on iPhone, iPad, Email, and Web. The back end uses a combination of Twitter and bitly data to surface only the most relevant content. News.me for Email keeps an eye on your Twitter stream throughout the day, then presents you with a list of the most important links shared...