If you use RSS feeds to keep up with the news, Google probably broke your heart yesterday by announcing that it’s shutting down Google Reader on July 1. Reader, aside from being a great web RSS reader, provided the syncing backend for many RSS readers in the iOS App Store, including Reeder, Mr. Reader and Newsify. I’ve been using Google Reader to sync my feeds for five years, so I’ve come to rely on it heavily for my news.
But recently I’ve also come to rely on several news aggregation apps (most of which are really just RSS readers with special features). Real RSS readers will still be around when Reader’s gone, especially given the market opportunity Reader’s demise presents for companies like Digg — which announced Thursday it would pick up where Google Reader leaves off — but it can’t hurt to have options for consuming news on your mobile device. Sometimes I’ll find articles in these apps that I wouldn’t have found in my more focused list of RSS feeds.
Here are five good iOS apps — all of them are free — that you can personalize to help you keep up with the news:
Zite bills itself as a personalized digital magazine, and it’s actually been around for awhile (it was acquired by CNN in 2011). Zite’s interface is kind of boring, but it’s also straightforward. When you first start Zite, you can choose from a list of default topics for it to pull articles from. You can also add your own topics through the search interface. A newsfeed displays rectangular article previews for your top news. You can like or dislike the articles Zite shows you, and that data is used to find other articles you might like. You can switch between topics by swiping left or right, and view which topics an article has attached to it by swiping up.
Flud is unique in that you can follow articles that other users are sharing. Each user also gets a Flud iQ score, which measures your influence on the service based on your activity. Besides following other users, you can also search for new sources to draw from, which are added to a favorites menu. Flud’s interface is more interesting than Zite’s, with large article previews and pretty red buttons. However, the large previews mean only two article previews can fit on the screen at one time, so scrolling through them ends up feeling tedious at times.
Unlike the others on this list, Circa doesn’t show you full articles from a source. Instead, Circa has editors that condense articles into nuggets of information called “points.” Rather than reading the full text of the article, you swipe through a list of points. Because the articles have to be condensed by humans, Circa has a feature where you can follow an article, so you’ll get notified whenever a new point is added to it. You can’t add new sources or topics to Circa, and it only comes with four topics by default. If you’re fine with that caveat and like things straight to the point, Circa’s worth checking out.
Flipboard’s been pretty widely covered by now, but it can’t hurt to throw it in. Flipboard has a sort of homescreen where you can add and arrange topics. As implied in its name, you “flip” through articles rather than scrolling a list, which means you also have to flip through the ones you might not be interested in.The biggest strength of Flipboard is that you can add a multitude of social networks as sources, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. You can even add your Google Reader account as a source — until it shuts down.
The thing that stands out about Pulse’s app is its interface. Instead of a list of articles, you’re shown a vertically scrolling list of sources and under each is a horizontally scrolling list of articles from that source. The advantage of this is that it allows Pulse to fit nine article previews in one view. Flud only fits two, for comparison. The disadvantage is that it requires a little more scrolling to get through your articles, since they’re arranged horizontally. The headline text is rather small too, and there’s no way to change it. Old eyes beware.
What’s your favorite news aggregator? Are there any you’ve tried that aren’t on the list? Tell us in the comments.