In addition to a range of other announcements at CES yesterday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer introduced a new news app, Yahoo News Digest. It was built under the supervision of Summly founder Nick D’Aloisio. Summly was acquired by Yahoo in March of 2013 for an estimated $30 million.
Summly itself was quickly shut down and its technology integrated into Yahoo’s mobile app. But, News Digest is essentially Summly 2.0. It lives side-by-side with the existing Yahoo News. Whether and how the two will co-exist over time remains to be seen.
Yahoo has made some strong and interesting choices with News Digest. It takes a novel and restrained approach in dealing with information overload or what I’ve heard called “info-besity.”
News Digest uses a mix of algorithms and human editors to select and summarize just nine top or important news stories and push those to out twice daily — using the model of morning and evening newspaper delivery (8am and 6pm Eastern). The human “curation” is one of the things that makes News Digest different and interesting, as well as the limited content and twice daily delivery schedule.
There’s no personalization, in contrast to many of Yahoo’s homepage and news sites, among other initiatives. Everybody gets the same content. There’s also no advertising. However if News Digest succeeds that will certainly come.
In addition to the body of any individual story (condensed for mobile consumption) there are a range of elements or components, called “atoms,” that help round out the content. These include “key quotes, images, videos, stock tickers, maps, infographics and Wikipedia.” According to D’Aloisio’s blog post:
We’ve taken summarization to the next level with News Digest, by algorithmically and editorially selecting the important articles and using multi-document summarization to identify the key ‘bits and pieces of information’. We’ve named these bits and pieces “Atoms.” Our Atoms assembled from around the web include articles, maps, infographics, Wikipedia extracts, videos, photos and more. Stories contain different atomic units which convey different dimensions of the story from the who, what, when, how, and why of a topic.
News Digest stands in contrast to the various apps and sites, including Yahoo and Yahoo News itself that have adopted the “stream” metaphor, and seek to show users endless content and related links or stories.