Here’s an app with a more local take on personalized news — Spun, which aggregates a mix of content relevant to your city.
Spun was created by the same startup behind Broadcastr, an app allowing users to create audio content and pin it to real-world locations. Broadcastr is still available, but co-founder and President Scott Lindenbaum said the new app represents the “next evolution of the company,” particularly because it was built with many of the lessons that the team learned from Broadcastr in mind.
For example, he said that while Broadcastr’s big selling point was the ability to consume content about your specific location (say, listening to something about the Brooklyn Bridge while you’re walking across that very bridge), only 7 percent of users actually listened to content located within 200 feet of them. However, 76 percent of users listened to content that was within a 50-mile radius. The team’s conclusion: People care about local content, but most of them aren’t going to change their behavior to find that content when they’re actually on-the-go.
And while Broadcastr was largely focused on user-generated audio, Lindenbaum said there’s already a wide variety of local content available for major cities from professional publications like newspapers and magazine, as well as semi-professional ones like high-quality blogs. So Spun tries to provide a “best of” — when you open the app, it gives you with a feed of those articles targeted to your city. There’s a Top Stories section, as well as pages focused specifically on Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle, and Food & Drink. (This morning, San Francisco’s top stories included 7×7′s list of pumpkin-related foods available in the Bay Area, an SF Weekly article about San Francisco getting a perfect score as a gay-friendly city, and a San Francisco magazine article about Rose Pak, a major figure in the local political scene.)
The team sounds pretty proud of its design, and deservedly so. To browse the different sections, you swipe your finger across the screen, which appears to rotate a 3D cube of content. And it’s accompanied by sounds created by Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen. (Too bad that I usually keep my iPhone on silent while I read the news.)
Most of the articles are tied to a specific location — or multiple locations, as in the case of list pieces like the pumpkin recommendations. (I say “most” not “all” because some articles aren’t really about a business or neighborhood, but rather San Francisco as a whole.) That means readers get a map directing them to whatever they’re reading about, and even more interestingly, they can set up push notifications that can tell them, “Hey, you’re near that restaurant you read about a few weeks ago.” Lindenbaum described this as taking locally relevant content and “spinning it back into the world.”
Beyond the city-level targeting, he said there’s some light personalization. As you read more articles in the app, your reading patterns will affect the ranking of new content as it’s presented to you. The team might add more layers of social and location-based targeting in the future, but Lindenbaum was emphatic that has to be done in a way that actually addresses user needs, rather than just adding a laundry list of features.
Spun plans to make money through “native” ad programs like promoted content. Lindenbaum also said the team plans to launch an API next year, so that other businesses can access the Spun database tying articles to locations. If it becomes widely used, the company’s app might, in Lindenbaum’s words, become “just an example of what you could do with this data.”
You can download the Spun app here.