iPhone Life magazine

Goodbye to The Daily; hello to free news apps Wavii and Summly

The big news today is that The Daily, the first iPad-only newspaper, will cease publication on December 15. I'm sorry to see it go. I've been a subscriber since the beginning, and it's always been the first thing I read in the morning. The publication kept evolving, and the mix of content and ease of navigation kept improving, and I felt they got it right. The app was a pleasure to interact with — much more so than other magazines or newspapers I've tried. I can only hope their conventions will be adopted by other publications. I enjoyed their glib content too, especially the typically clever News Corp headlines. I wouldn't turn to The Daily for a serious read, but it was always the first thing I read — just a fun way to begin the day and get a picture of what's happening.

Meanwhile, you still have a ton of options if you want to get a summary of the day's news, social media, and topics of interest. The most popular news aggregators seem to be the free apps Flipboard and Zite. I highly recommed both. They make it easy to tailor the app to your interests. And both are lovely to look at and easy to interact with. 

However, a new breed of apps has been getting attention the last few days, with the release of version 2.0 of Wavii (also free). This is a news aggregator that scrapes the web, as with other apps, and automatically creates status updates about technology, politics, celebrities, or whatever other topics interest you. But this genre takes things a step further by parsing the natural language and offering up a quick, machine-generated summary of each story. Wavii serves up summaries as short as 5- or 6-word blurbs. And it uses specific algorithms to identify related stories, such that you get an effective overview of a news topic. Note that there's no iPad-specific version.

Summly (free) is similar, but condenses the news stories into short paragraphs that fit onto one iPhone screen. Its whole goal is to allow you to browse the news quickly by offering concise 400-character summaries using natural language processing and artificial intelligence. The app summarizes hundreds of news sources, and lets you customize it according to topics, key words, and preferred sources. Again, as with Wavii, there's no iPad-specific version.

So what happened to The Daily? Not enough subscribers to justify the staff of 130 that it took to produce it. News Corp said that they would reassign their staff and facets of their technology to other online publications of News Corp, including the New York Post. From the press release: "As part of a digital restructuring initiative, the company will cease standalone publication of The Daily iPad app on December 15, 2012, though the brand will live on in other channels. Technology and other assets from The Daily, including some staff, will be folded into The Post."

News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch is quoted as saying: "From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term. Therefore we will take the very best of what we have learned at The Daily and apply it to all our properties."

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.