On first glance Niiiws, a recently-released app for the iPad, looks like many of the other news aggregators out there. It lets you browse a selection of headlines and story excerpts from major websites; it acts as a souped-up RSS reader; you roll through a smooth, clean design that’s more than a little reminiscent of Flipboard.
You can customize the stories you want to see, look at the top headlines in subject areas like politics, sport of the economy, save the stories you’re particularly interested in and share the things you think are worth talking about.
But here’s the twist: Niiiws is totally focused on showing you big media news on a country-by-country basis.
The service’s slogan is “the best of the national press on your iPad”, which sort of gives the strategy away: it’s focused on bringing you news stories from professional organizations inside a particular country. My version of the app, for example, pulls together a range of British news sources; your version may look only as news sources from Portugal, or from Germany, or wherever you live. Unlike Flipboard, it doesn’t aggregate stories through a social filter, it just looks at feeds from prominent professional outlets. And unlike almost everyone else, it sticks inside national borders.
Now, this focus on national news outlets may seem unusual — borders are meaningless in a world without information, after all. But there are things to remember: linguistic barriers, for example, are a much bigger deal in Europe than they are in most other markets. There are lots of small-but-significant audiences who want to read news in their own language, from familiar news sources.
The Portuguese startup behind the app believes that will fit into a certain use case, not entirely dissimilar to the Evening Edition project that Mathew wrote about just yesterday.
Evidence suggests that many new tablet users are after a more casual, broad reading experience: providing something that can be localized is an interesting way to approach an otherwise-crowded market. The aggregator space is busy, with big names like Zite and Pulse as well as Flipboard. By comparison Niiiws is still a very small product, with a team of just four who have spun out of the Porto-based web app developer Muchbeta.
When I caught up with CEO Joao Martins, he explained that there were a range of options for expansion and monetization still available to the app: incorporating ads, selling some versions of the app (your local edition is free, but you have to pay to buy a version for Spain, for example) or doing deals with the news providers themselves (the service still sends readers through to the originating website, so it could have appeal).
So can this United Nations of news approach work?