RSS Readers + News Apps in 2020
For me, this article is a series of personal experiments. Focused on translating my own and client research into an essay inspired by the format of Justino Beirne
News aggregation has just started to evolve again after being a list of RSS links for the last decade. But the tools today are underdeveloped, lock you into a specific publisher, others only support written media, and others don't allow independent writers. Here I will outline some trends in the history of news services and suggest some possible futures.
A few popular news aggregators have added a text-to-speech functionality, and the two leaders would appear to be Pocket and Instapaper. The standard playback speed is limited to 0.5x to 3x at playback. And when you enter a text-to-speech mode the text is often hidden from view. But both support creating a playlist of selected content to listen to, which would be similar to how Speechify lets listeners play an entire folder. But we could learn from how other apps use auditory markers to help you way-find as you listen to the content. For example, a Chapter or Article Title is played in a different voice, or a chime will play at the end of an article to indicate it's completed. I think adding audio indicators at Then end of an article, chapter titles, end of reading a folder, when a book/article has finished, reading highlighted content, when the text starts based on the work your tap. Adding these indicators would help with navigation and would increase the listening experience. Additionally allowing the document text to be shown while being read would allow for a better annotation.
Firefox - uses a native pocket integration to track the articles for offline and for multi-media RSS management.
Safari - on the left-hand side there is an option to save articles for later via your reading list.
A few apps have started to allow customers to follow others within the app. Outside of social media apps, this usually is still just a feed of content occasionally with commenting. In Breaker, for example, you can see what others have listened to, recommended, or commented on. Then in Pocket, you can see highlighted and favored content.
What could Speechify look into?
One of the biggest things we can do is reduce friction points of importing content. But if you look at our current import methods, it's mostly going to a cloud storage platform, selecting a file, and importing it, which is very practical. Or adding content from the iOS share menu. These are both great ways, but they don't allow us to redirect to our app from other news systems very well, and they are all manual ways of importing content. I want to encourage us to look more at how we fit into existing news aggregation systems. Then the media importing into the app is semi-automated.
For this, we should look at how services like Feedly, for example, have a save to Instapaper option. I would suggest we look at making a save to Speechify option. Each major platform seems to have a different way to save to an external service, and we should try to be one of those external services. 👀 Sidenote: Some of the top news services currently are: Feedly, Google News, Instapaper Pocket, Flipboard, Apple News, and Panda. The next phase, after better integrations, could be adding an RSS import option to our app. Articles appear on the main home screen in a new div. Similar to Google News but more relevant to a given Listener. In this example, we could keep the same card style the current Google News Card.
But away we could take it even further would be to support RSS feeds right in the app. This would help provide a constant feed of content for our Listeners to listen to.
Lastly, a yet-to-be-adopted feature for news apps is social feeds. Yes, you can share articles, and some feed management services even let you share articles you have saved with people that follow you. But none let you automatically share articles once they have read, or share notes/highlights from an article by default.
So there are two things I want to call out here: We should automate more content importing (maybe it is part of a premium feature set). We could just become a news aggregator too especially since the space entry has a rather low bar. Adding a social layer is not making much progress in that space, but we could. One thought experiment I think could be interesting to do. Is What would it look like if we made HD Voices "free" and made up the cost by offering a different paid feature set?
Notes + Reading: