Newspapers may be struggling, but the news and information sector is alive and well. The news just comes to us on our smartphones and tablets, rather than being delivered to our doorstep these days.
Even desktop websites are losing a big chunk of traffic to mobile devices that stream stories from news apps. Perhaps that’s because people like to get their news on the go while standing in line at the grocery store or taking a break at work.
Whatever the reason, there’s a huge segment of the population that wants to stay connected at all times, and the following 13 news apps deliver breaking news and commentary in a format that keeps users engaged.
That’s right, even if you don’t work for a news outlet and you’re not trying to break into the mobile game, or even if you’re not planning to launch your own news aggregator app, these apps are worth studying. You can still learn a great deal about solid UX principles and creating cutting-edge features by exploring the top-rated news applications.
In this rundown, we’ll talk about the 13 best news apps that help customers stay on top of the news and keep them coming back.
1. BBC News App
The BBC is a worldwide news organization that keeps readers updated with the latest news stories and videos on-demand. It is considered the best world news app for iOS and Android, offering innovative ways to keep users engaged.
What made BBC’s news app successful?
- “My News” option is a great example of personalization, allowing users to navigate wherever they choose and visit the sections they like best: Top headlines, Economy, Breaking News, etc.
- Live-streaming news channels within the app, recreating the TV news experience on a mobile device.
- Breaking news through notifications to keep users informed on what matters.
Flipboard is quite possibly the world’s most trendy and engaging news app. Many other apps like Flipboard exist, but this news aggregator app stands out for a number of reasons.
It has brilliant visuals and beautiful designs that present news stories in a creative way. The interface shows various types of content, including articles, slideshows, and videos, and it connects with social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.
What made Flipboard successful?
- Stunning design that users love
- “For You” tab to personalize the experience
- Live news app that features real-time streaming of events as they unfold
3. Google News
Google News puts its advertising algorithm to use by filling each users’ feed with news that interests them. And they’re pretty good at it, as you can imagine! This news streaming app can also show you local news, essentially serving as a local news app if that’s what you’re looking for.
What made Google News successful?
- The “Full Coverage” button under each headline lets users explore different news outlets’ takes on a given topic—something discerning readers value in an era of intense partisanship and concern about biased reporting
- Ability to subscribe to specific news sources and read them directly from the app
- Option to purchase premium subscriptions to news outlets
4. The New York Times
The New York Times is America’s paper of record, featuring “All the news that’s fit to print” for over a century. Known around the world for its award-winning reporting, the New York Times offers a newspaper app that all its digital subscribers can access.
What made the New York Times app successful?
- Off-line reading for subscribers who might lose internet access on the New York subway (or any metro around the world)
- Breaking news alerts + notifications on topics of interest
- A clean user interface that readers of all ages can wrap their heads around
5. CNN News
CNN pioneered the 24-hour cable news phenomenon—for better or worse!
CNN’s official mobile app receives 40% of its total internet traffic, and users find it engaging and easy to navigate. CNN offers a wide assortment of articles, and even though the main site is primarily written for a U.S. audience, the app will tailor news to your region based on your IP address.
What made CNN’s news app successful?
- CNN-exclusive content that you can’t see anywhere else
- Video news channel that offers seamless live streaming
- Additional video-based content (including popular shows) that video news junkies love
Digg features content from news websites around the world, much like Google News, Flipboard, and the other news aggregator apps on this list.
Through the power of computer algorithms and some great old-fashioned human curation, Digg has created a loyal following that helps users figure out “what the internet is talking about right now.” That’s their tagline.
What made the Digg news app successful?
- Digg offers helpful summaries of news stories, helping busy professionals stay informed
- Careful curation by Digg’s editors help users “dig” deeper than the headlines to find informative pieces worth studying
- Seamless saving and sharing features
- Wide-ranging options to customize the User Experience (UX)
7. AP Mobile
The Association Press launched its Mobile news app all the way back in 2008. One of the most trusted sources in the world for unbiased journalism, it’s an invaluable resource for those who want a straightforward User Experience (UX) and factual reporting.
What made the AP Mobile news app successful?
- Regular, efficient updates so users can stay informed on the latest events
- Breaking news displayed in a stripped-down style
- The app is quick and responsive, thanks to its simple format
In a world of contentious debates, the Reuters news app is respected by many across the political spectrum. Reuters is known for fact-checking and objective reporting, featuring news from around the world.
What made Reuters successful?
- Content from more than 2,000 journalists in 180 countries across the globe
- Straightforward personalization allows users to see more of the stories they want to see
- Editorial highlights let users sample opinion pieces from different sides of a given debate
Feedly is one of the best news apps that use RSS feeds. The app pulls all the important news from a range of various sources, giving users the option to view stories from the outlets they trust the most. Feedly was one of the earliest apps to use RSS feeds, and they gained a loyal following that made them an established player in the news and information sector.
What made Feedly successful?
- Easy integration with Facebook, IFTTT, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Evernote, OneNote, and others
- Straightforward UX that makes customization a breeze
- Machine learning that helps deliver personalized content that users love
The Pulse news app is similar to Flipboard, amassing content from a wide assortment of news outlets that users can curate. Owned by LinkedIn, the app can also stream content from LinkedIn influencers if that’s your jam.
What made the Pulse app successful?
- Easy options for including or excluding various news sources
- Highly-functional interface that lets users scan content in a grid-format and tap the articles they want to read
- Seamless integration with social media
Download: Android, iOS
SmartNews is one of the top news apps for Android and iOS devices. Its friendly and intuitive interface is inviting, and like other successful aggregators, it does a great job of presenting content based on a user’s past behavior.
What made SmartNews successful?
- Excellent algorithm to deliver relevant content to each user
- Well-designed UX
- The option to save articles for off-line reading
12. Apple News
Apple News is the native news app on iPhones and iPads, and if you’ve ever owned one of these devices, you know how much they try to vie for our attention. Unless you turn the app’s notifications off, you’ll get a barrage of updates.
The good news is that it does an excellent job of understanding what interests you, so you’ll end up seeing stories you like. It also has some pretty amazing aggregator features that others don’t offer, assuming you’re willing to pay for Apple News+.
Thanks to its bargaining power as one of the world’s big tech companies, Apple News+ lets you read content that exists behind many news outlets’ paywalls. In other words, for $9.99/month, you can read stories in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and many more—subscriptions that would cost you hundreds of dollars per year if you purchased them individually.
What made Apple News successful?
- Being part of the Apple ecosystem gave them a built-in audience
- Apple+ subscriptions are perfect for people who want to read premium content from a variety of sources
- Beautiful UX design that we’ve come to expect from Apple
Download: No iOS download required—the app comes pre-installed.
Unfortunately, Android users are out of luck.
The News360 app is another aggregator app that does an excellent job of presenting news from a variety of sources on an incredibly wide range of topics. Well suited to users with niche interests, the app has over 1,000 topics to choose from! While that might be exhausting for some people, News360 has gained a loyal following among news junkies.
What made News360 successful?
- Truly beautiful, highly-usable design
- Easy search features
- Powerful customization
A Word about Personalization
When it comes to media consumption, the world has grown highly individual in its tastes. Many cultural critics argue that this has caused more harm than good, and they make a solid case. News has become siloed, and people often live in very different worlds from their neighbors who consume different news sources.
An extreme example of personalization run amok is what happens when you start watching YouTube videos from people who believe the world is flat. The platform decides that you like this “flat earth” content and it sends you more of it. If you’re particularly susceptible to online videos, you may start wondering whether NASA has been lying to you all this time.
Okay, probably not! You’re smart enough to read Net Solutions’ blog, so in all likelihood, you’re a rational human being. Still, you can see where personalization can get us in trouble as a civilization.
Despite its downsides, personalization is a key component of each of these apps’ successes. Every single one of them has mastered the art of delivering content uniquely designed to engage users based on their interests.
All this begs the question—what’s an app designer to do? How do we make ethical news apps that can still compete by delivering personalized content?
Keeping the Human Touch
The answer, we believe, lies in some degree of curation—having real, live human beings make decisions about what content to present, rather than relying exclusively on the almighty algorithm.
Newspapers have always had editors who decide what constitutes objective journalism, and aggregator sites need to employ the same type of rigor to ensure their news sources are free of bias. Fact-checking opinion pieces would also constitute a step forward.
App Design Lessons for the Rest of Us
Here at Net Solutions, we’ve designed and built a mind-blowing number of apps, helping startup teams, as well as established companies, bring their apps to market. In fact, we’ve been doing mobile design and development since mobile technology was born, and we’re in a unique position to see what works.
Studying news apps, even if you’re not planning to build a news app specifically, can tell you a lot about the latest and greatest in mobile software. After all, mobile apps receive an extraordinary amount of traffic, and companies use that data to better understand their consumers and deliver products that engage them.
When it comes to your own app, take a page from the best news apps’ playbooks and work toward creating a powerful experience that, if it makes sense, provides some degree of personalization.
Of course, your very first release isn’t likely to have a ton of personalization. In most cases, you’ll be focused on creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and you’ll refine your app based on user feedback. The ultimate goal, however, is to work toward a mature product that offers an unforgettable experience. That’s what keeps users coming back year after year.
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