The Daily Beast launched a new version of its iOS app today, incorporating one of the IAC-owned news site’s main features — the Cheat Sheet, which provides brief (150 to 200 word) summaries of the day’s top stories.
The Cheat Sheet gets prominent placement in the app. In fact, it’s now one of two main sections, along with Top Stories. And that’s not the only new place where you can find Cheat Sheet summaries, a.k.a. Cheats — the company also just launched “flash briefings” on Amazon Alexa.
Why push the Cheat Sheet now? Daily Beast President and Publisher Mike Dyer told me that the section’s traffic has grown 35 percent year-over-year, and it and now accounts for 10 percent of the site’s total. Plus, he said that 90-second news briefs (the time it takes to read a Cheat out loud) are the ideal length for Alexa.
Dyer also argued that the Cheat Sheet represents a new format for journalism — he suggested that aside from tweets, most journalism falls somewhere between an article and a deeply reported feature, so “our view is that there’s white space between an article and a tweet.”
Now, if you’re the kind of journalism nerd who likes arguing about different formats (i.e., me), you might be thinking, “What about news briefs?” Well, Dyer argued that Cheats are a different “art form”: “What makes it distinct, if you look at brief products, they do a pretty good job of giving short version of what is happening, but we describe a Cheat as an overview with a point of view. It’s not enough to just discuss what’s happening, it’s about getting a reporter and editor’s expertise.”
Dyer also suggested that it’s a bit “contrarian” for The Daily Beast to continue to developing and updating its app at all, especially while not pursuing distribution through Facebook’s Instant Articles or Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project.
“One of the things I’ve felt lately is that a lot of publishers are not investing as much as they should in their own app,” he said. Sure, publishers probably reach a bigger audience by focusing on social media and their own websites, but “we’ve been very careful not to pursue scale for scale’s sake, and [instead] to pursue influence and expertise.”