The Secret To Yahoo's Latest News App: One Teenager's Old School Approach

Mar 7 2014, 11:03pm CST | by

News has traditionally been told by a voice of authority, hence why so many people instinctively believed Thursday’s Newsweek’s story claiming to unmask the founder of Bitcoin. Of course when that authority lacks a strong foundation of facts, it’s vulnerable to being ripped apart by the Internetprecisely what has happened to the 81-year-old Newsweek in the last 24 hours.

Enter a new kind of authority in telling the news, one focused not so much on scoops and truth, but the limited ability of the human brain to process information. Yahoo’s recently-launched News Digest app puts a decisive limit on the endless glut of news on the Internet.

That’s the grand idea of Nick D’Aloisio, anyway. He’s the 18-year-old entrepreneur who sold his summarization app to Yahoo in April 2013 for $30 million — most of it cash which went straight into a trust fund. Since then he’s taken his anti-data-glut approach further by revamping Summly and turning it into Digest.

The service, he says, differs from other mobile news services like Circa, Inside and Flipboard, by giving users a list of what they ought to know and nothing more. There’s no personalization, no limitless stream of other stories they could read. Just a list of around a dozen stories and you’re done.

The app sends users a new digest twice a day, and rewards them with a nifty little animation when they’ve read through the list.

“We want it to be very antithetical to other news apps in the landscape. This idea of formalism and the rigidity of having a twice day digest,” says D’Aloisio. “That’s very calming to me. It’s consistent.”

The app is all about simplicity: a layout with bold colors and straight lines, a flat design and typography inspired by the 1960s modernist era and iOS 7, according to D’Aloisio.

Stories are boldly formulaic. D’Aloisio refers to building blocks, or “atoms” of information that are cobbled together to tell a story. One “atom” is the text, while another is a section from Wikipedia that puts a story in historic context. Another are Tweets related to the story.

D’Aloisio originally created Summly after becoming frustrated with studying for a history exam, and finding there was simply too much information to read. The home-made software he dreamed up was based purely on genetic algorithms, and led to a nifty but somewhat clunky app that automatically summarized news stories as bullet points.

Now he’s learned he needs humans too. Yahoo won’t say how many from its news team are working on the Digest app, which D’Aloisio launched to some fanfare at CES last month, but given the handful of stories it puts out each day it’s probably not many.

Yahoo can also credit D’Aloisio’s schoolwork for once again inspiring the technology he’s coming up with. The teen, who is sometimes up till 2 a.m. taking conference calls with his Yahoo bosses on the West Coast, has spent the last year studying math and further math at A-level, a standard qualification for British high school students.

“In doing that work I was thinking about breaking down news in a computational manner, where you can separate the discreet elements of a news story,” he says. Hence those atoms.

Both D’Aloisio and Yahoo won’t say how many people have been actively using Digest, but he’ll continue to tweak the service in between his studies. “It does mean a lot of traveling and stuff,” he says, but adds gamely: “It’s very complementary to the stuff I’m doing with A-level. When I’m bored with A-levels I go to Yahoo, and when I’m bored with Yahoo I go to A-levels.”

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said.
 
 
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92.
 
 
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of the precious natural resource, suggests research.
 
 
Oceans were always there on Earth: Scientists
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Debunking previous theories that water came late to Earth well after the planet had formed, researchers have significantly moved back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Orson Welles last film to be released
Orson Welles' final movie will finally be released next year. The acclaimed filmmaker had worked on 'The Other Side of the Wind' - which chronicles a temperamental film director battling with the Hollywood establishment...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Game of Thrones stars get pay rise
'Games of Thrones' cast members will be paid $300,000 an episode. Five of the shows biggest stars - Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - have landed bumper payrises after...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Mike Tyson: I was abused
Mike Tyson claims he was sexually abused as a child. The 48-year-old retired boxer was ''snatched'' off the street when he was seven by an ''old man'', who he never saw again after the shocking one-time incident....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Amanda Bynes released from psychiatric facility
Amanda Bynes has been released from a psychiatric treatment facility. The 'Easy A' actress was spotted walking around Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, last night (30.10.14), 19 days after she was admitted to the hospital...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Lindsay Lohan sued for 60m
Lindsay Lohan is being sued for over $60 million. A website developer has filed a case against the 'Mean Girls' actress and her brother Michael in which he accused them of stealing one of his ideas. According to Fima...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Russell Brand to give money away
Russell Brand plans to give away his future earnings. The 39-year-old star insists he ''doesn't need'' to make money for himself anymore so wants to use his fortune to help those in need. He told Vanity Fair magazine...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Koji Uerhara Signs 2-Year, $18M Deal With Boston Red Sox
Ace Japanese closer Koji Uehara signed a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox on Oct. 30.According to MLB.com's Ian Browne, Uehara's deal is worth $18 million:"Perhaps it was fitting that the Red Sox announced a two-...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said. Researchers at the Finnish university...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92. His death revived memories of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. He...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable...
Read more on Business Balla