April 07, 2011

Ninua Launches Social News Reader on Android

As I've discussed many times, finding the right news from your news streams and social streams is an increasingly difficult challenge - and for most people, traditional RSS readers have proven too difficult for mass adoption, despite my own feverish feed religion. Into the void steps a new reader, launching first on Android, to try and connect readers and writers through social news exploration, tapping into three main news reading pillars to try and deliver a high quality, polished news reader, competing with people like Pulse and Flipboard, but unique in its own right. The new product is called Ninua News Reader, and it's from the team behind NetworkedBlogs, the most popular tool for posting your blog entries to Facebook.

Ninua's approach to the world of news, as demoed at the 500 Startups Demo Day in Mountain View on Wednesday, is centered around three major news reading pillars, including:
  1. Headlines and Mainstream News
  2. Blogs
  3. What Friends Read
Founder and CEO Waleed Abdulla said the company was "trying to do news in the right way", by helping users follow friends who share your interests and learn new sources through their own reading lists. Unlike other news readers, including Flipboard, Ninua does not pull in social stream content from Facebook or Twitter, but it does use that increasingly-important social graph to help provide guidance for your eventual reading list. Abdulla said, "The Facebook stream is social, but it's not news. See what your friends are reading, and if you like it, you can follow them. The app is tailored to you based on the sources you follow and the friends you follow."

Selecting Topics and Sources in Ninua for Android

If it sounds simple, that's because it pretty much is. Upon installing and launching the app on Android, you're asked to select three topics of interests from a pre-selected handful. Dependent on your choices (for example: Technology, Startups and Sports), you are then presented with a list of matching blogs and news sources to follow - all of them prechecked to be added to your reading list. Deselect those you don't want, and then you're asked to connect to Facebook to match the social side of things.

Following Friends and Their Recommendations

Once you've found your friends using the app and what they follow, the app taps its NetworkedBlogs roots and finds other sites your friends may not just be reading, but writing. There's a good chance you'll want to add those to your reading list as well. Now you've got a healthy list of sources based on your interests, and a list of sources based on your friends' interests.

My News Front Page and One Story In Ninua

With this array of sources in tow, complete the setup and you can read the news from those sources you've selected, or you can add new sources. There's no mention of the word RSS, the word Feed, or anything remotely as scary as big words like Pubsubhubbub or acronyms like OPML. The resulting articles are laid out with social signals to show other upvotes, and you can share the articles you like best to other services.

Ninua is a new wrinkle on the social-centric reader, mashed up with your own interests. Unsurprisingly, the app debuts with a strong user experience, and it's calm enough to not make you feel like you're missing something on the next page or next refresh. It's a solid approach to simplifying the news reading process, especially on mobile. You can find it on Android Market here: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.ninua.android

Disclosure: I am vice president of marketing at my6sense, which offers a personalized social and news reader for Android, iOS and the Web. It can be assumed that Flipboard, Pulse and Ninua can be seen alternatively as competitors or potential partners.