Good Noows, an elegant RSS reader with big social plans

Good Noows, from ZNet Labs, is described as a personal news stream. And like Netvibes and others before it, is another attempt to take RSS mainstream.

In its first incarnation the product offers a simple but elegant RSS reader, with various newspaper-like page layouts and pre-defined content bundles. Moving forward, however, ZNet Labs founder and ex-Googler Daniel Franz has more ambitious plans.

He aims to develop the product into a news-centered social network that makes “XML-exchanged news content better accessible for the average consumer.” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here’s what Good Noows offers today.

To get started users can sign in via Twitter, Facebook or create a Good Noows account. They are then asked to configure news sources for various categories e.g. Sport, Politics, Business, Science and Technology etc. Within each category there are pe-defined lists of sources – the RSS feeds of well known main stream media and blogs – and users can check or uncheck any of these sources as they customize their news reader. Categories can be hidden or new ones added, and there is also the option to import additional RSS feeds. Finally, various different page layouts are offered, which can be changed on the fly via a drop down menu.

As for the content itself, each feed is offered as an excerpt, clicking on the headline or text opens a new web page with the original source. There are also a number of sharing options, including Twitter, Facebook and email. Interestingly, a web-based IM client is also available in the bottom right hand corner of the reader, powered by Meebo.

However, ZNet Labs is planning to evolve Good Noows into a niche social network around news content, connecting readers with publishers, journalists and politicians to foster debate. “We’d like it to become the one point of access for discussing contemporary news topics – beyond the limits of single publishers, regional borders, or devices”, says Franz.

He concedes that the news aggregator space is very crowded and includes traditional RSS readers, start pages, and the likes of Google News but feels that there is still “enough room for differentiation and innovation.” Of course, whether or not the world needs another social network is certainly debatable.

In terms of revenue, Franz sees lots of potential streams, such as charging for a mobile app, a freemium model with different features, and “lead generation and revenue sharing for publisher subscription payments”. As publishers erect “uncoordinated” paywalls, there could be the need for an aggregator that also centralises billing.

Munich-based ZNet Labs/Good Noows is currently self-funded (family and friends), although Franz says they are seeking seed funding from VCs or Angels.