August 28, 2008 / 2:15 PM / 9 years ago

Web news aggregators rise despite papers woes

<p>A journalist uses a computer at the Main Press Center in Beijing August 1, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar</p>

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Local newspapers may be faced with hard times, but the ability to get news on a mobile device is flourishing, with several outlets providing context that helps explain particular stories’ places in the larger universe of world events.

The need for this becomes more apparent when you consider the thousands of newspapers, broadcasters, wires, and blogs around the globe. Until recently, few sites tried to make it easier for you to negotiate through the thicket.

That is important as more readers get their news in bites while on the go. Many breeze through stories, updates and opinions using notebook computers or smart phones like Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch pocket computer, or Research in Motion’s Blackberry or Samsung Electronics’s Instinct.

These websites, dubbed “aggregators,” cull together news from famous sources like the BBC as well as some otherwise unknown outlets.

Here is a sample of some of the most interesting and accessible English-language sites that distribute news, and what makes them worth a visit.

* Daylife (www.daylife.com) allows other publishers aggregate news on their own sites, said partner and new media blogger Jeff Jarvis. The site exhorts readers to dig in, giving them photos, timelines and other accessories that Jarvis says provides "an analysis of the body of news."

* Newser (www.newser.com), started by Vanity Fair media columnist Michael Wolff, tells readers that "You can't follow 100 news sources, but we can." Its hook is human editors who search for and present the news, similar to old-fashioned print newspaper editors.

* Topix (www.topix.com) is a bit of a new media lab for Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune, the three U.S. newspaper publishers that own it. Topix presents news stories based on the ZIP code or town name that you enter at the top of its home page. The site then presents local news with an often lively (and profane) list of comments.

* Google News (news.google.com) and Yahoo News (news.yahoo.com) are two of the most well known stops because they are the products of the popular online search engines and Internet networks.

Both divvy up news according to topic and allow people to search for results. (A hint for easier searching: book-end your search terms with quotation marks. Finding a story about “Reuters” or “The New York Times” without using quotation marks will produce stories written by those news outlets, not stories about them.)

* “RSS” feeds allow readers to keep up with breaking news by telling them when something happens, rather than requiring them to refresh the websites they follow throughout the day.

The upside is that they can be habit-forming after learning how to use them. The downside is learning how. “RSS” means “Really Simple Syndication,” but for casual Internet users who don’t use terms like RSS in cocktail party chatter, they are not always easy to set up.

One easy RSS service is Bloglines (www.bloglines.com). Also try NetVibes, and Google's Google Reader.

* NewsCred (www.newscred.com)-- like another popular site, Digg (www.digg.com) -- lets users rank articles. However, whereas Digg ranks them by popularity, NewsCred ranks stories by credibility.

Founder Shafqat Islam, a former project manager for financial systems at Merrill Lynch, told Reuters he and his partner Iraj Islam tailored the site toward less technologically inclined users.

“We wanted to create a news-aggregating site where it’s just as simple as clicking on the logos of your favorite websites. It’s for mainstream news readers, not early adopters or techies,” Shafqat Islam said.

One other important point: even though most of the articles on NewsCred are in English, it does offer links to some other languages, and Islam said they plan to expand to coverage in in-demand languages like French, Italian and Spanish.

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