Screening The News

Editor’s note: Today, being a news junkie requires not just the ability to keep up with hundreds of breaking stories a day, but the ability to redistribute those stories to your followers and news sites. To get some insight into the modern news junkie, we asked Mrinal Desai to share with us how he screens the news in the guest post below. Desai is the co-founder of CrossLoop, but some of you may recognize him more from Twitter or Techmeme, where he tips stories every day—580 of those tips have appeared as headlines since the beginning of this year. You can read his last guest post here.

Like many out there, I have been, am and always will be a news addict. For many news junkies, it is the fleeting, current fix of information about a breaking topic that interests them, only to be replaced by the next headline. They jump from headline to headline, forgetting the one they just read as they move on to the next one.

For me personally, news is not only timely information on the current state of affairs but also a way to take a deep dive, to connect analysis and information together and learn through application.  I am looking for insight.  It could be patterns, it could be knowledge about an industry or it could be an opportunity to become introspective and ask questions.

Keeping this in mind, here is a snapshot of my consumption and distribution of news both offline and online.  I’ll divide the way I screen the news by the screens on which it comes to me.

No Screen:

  • I don’t start a day without reading The Wall Street Journal in print
  • Currently, I get 4 magazines and I go through them on the weekend: The Economist, The Atlantic, Wired and Fortune. Before they stopped, I used to also get Business 2.0 and MIT’s Technology Review.

Screen 1 – MacBook Pro:

Apps: Twitter, Google Reader, Techmeme and a little bit of Facebook

Twitter: I’ve been a user since January 2007.  Its always on for me. I invest a significant amount of time in figuring out who/what to follow based on my interests.  Today this ‘list’ stands at 489. Building this list is a continuous process and it typically consists of people who can teach or inform me of something, news sources and people I respect and with whom I want to build a long term relationship with independent of business. Of this, I have a column/list/group called “Pigeons” (birdie, early days of communication—you get it, right?).  I read each and every tweet of this group. I have about 75 in this group. 15 of my personal favorites, apart from @techcrunch and all those who write for it @techcrunch/team, are:

@bxchen – Technology Reporter, Wired
@148apps – iPhone App Reviews
@msuster – General Partner, GRP Partners
@jennydeluxe – Technology Reporter, The New York Times
@scobleizer – everything social media
@Learmonth – Reporter at Adage
@jasonhiner – Executive Editor at TechRepublic (CBS Interactive)
@leplaporte – Technology Journalist and Broadcaster
@appadvice – Editor, Webware (CBS Interactive)
@taylorbuley – Technology Reporter, Forbes
@sarahintampa – Writer, ReadWriteWeb
@reckless – Nilay Patel, Engadget
@gizmodo – Everything gadgets blog
@dmac1 – Technology reporter, Business Week
@joshk – General Partner, First Round Capital

You can follow them all in one click on the Twitter List I created called “Fifteen


Screen 2 – iPhone: I have played with a few iPhone news apps, both paid and free.  These include the mobile apps from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times , Byline, Fluent News, News Fuse, BBCReader, NPR News, ReadItLater, ZenNews, and News Pro. I also visit mobile news sites. Being a little glued to Techmeme, I was very excited to see its new mobile version for smartphones—the icon took a spot right away on my home screen:

After experimenting and trying them all out, though, my current favorite native iPhone app is Newsstand (iTunes Link) which stays on my dock. Its a $4.99 app but it does the following extremely well for me:

1. Synchs beautifully with Google Reader and is fast.  It allows me to organize my folders, move them up and down and importantly very easily “Mark all as Read” :)

Below is a snapshot of my Feeds and a folder creatively named ‘Top News” that I keep a close watch on every day.

2) Newsstand has a lot of social goodness to share through Twitter, Delicious, ReadItLater and Instapaper

What’s Missing: so that I can track data on the links I share as I do on Tweetie 2 with my API key.
—Sharing on Facebook
—Ability to RT or @respond to my twitter stream that I subscribe to as an RSS feed from within Google Reader.

Before social media, I always shared news via email to specific people. Now I have replaced email with these easy tools:
Twitthat bookmarklet. One click.
Twitterbar a Firefox Add-on customized with a prefix. One click.

—Google Reader’s Share is connected to my Twitter account. One click.
—Facebook Share bookmarklet or if I want it all on one place, I recommend Shareaholic.

Screen 3 – TV. I do not get my news here since I watch very little TV.

Screen 4 – eReader
I have a Kindle that I use to read books and have not switched from print to this one yet for news. As you can imagine, I get enough news on my other screens all day and like some time away from it.

Below is a visual of how I personally share news and the tools I use. Everything goes through Twitterfeed as my central hub for news going in and out.  Note that lately I stand undecided between Seesmic and Tweetdeck. (Image courtesy: Zurb, click to enlarge).


I spend a significant amount of money on news—4 print magazines, 2 newspapers with one online and iPhone apps.

The only screen I care about:

  • well written analysis
  • Unique and timely content/information
  • Thought provoking story telling
  • “Connection” with the writer—literally or figuratively from a style perspective
  • Delivery channel. Find me—the “paperboy route” has changed

How do you screen the news?