how i get my news

Everyone is unique with regards to his/her fingerprints, aspirations, and the news he/she reads. Regardless of the topical interests, it’s still very easy to get overwhelmed with managing bookmarks, feeds, readers, interfaces, and social networks.

I’m sure at some point you’ve felt at least the feeling that you are behind in the latest technologies, the feeling that you are missing some major news of interest to you, or the feeling that you haven’t updated your account often enough. With that in mind, I’m going to list some subscriptions I have and technologies I use with the hope that it might help you become more efficient and comfortable with accessing news. If not, maybe you can offer up some advice to me as you’ll see I’m still hitting a hodgepodge of sites/links.

Note: Obviously this doesn’t include everything but tries to show main sites, sources, and technologies I hit on independently. For my categorized blog rolls check out the widget on the right side of my blog (directly from Google Reader). And although I don’t use them very often, everyone should know about Technorati for blogs, Delicious for bookmarks, and Digg for all content.

Major News Sites, Aggregators, and Readers

  • BBC News – Quick glance gives quick review across all regions of the world.
  • CNN – Top news on homepage gives quick review across all topical categories. Top of the page is good for breaking news.
  • ESPN – Best (and most timely) source for sports news.
  • Twitter – Most customizable feed of informal news links, blog posts, and sentiments. Best for breaking news.
  • Google Alerts – Very targeted news (search results) in an easy-to-use format. Helpful for breaking news.
  • Google Fast Flip – Newest, most-efficient and well-categorized interface for paging through news.
  • Google Reader – My favorite. Best aggregation and categorization of RSS feeds with email-like features.
  • My Alltop – Good way to find new things to read by category and/or search term. See my previous post on some feature enhancements that would make it a primary news hub.
  • NYTimes – Today’s headlines email comes in around 7am ET every day.
  • SmartBrief – I get the daily SmartBrief on Social Media. That’s just 1 of 120+ briefs they have.
  • Stratfor – I get weekly geopolitical intelligence reports by email. They’re easy to read and they hit on global topics of current interest. This week: “Misreading the Iran Situation”.
  • USA Today – iPhone app is nice interface and lets you interact with the news (polls, comments, link sharing/posting, etc)
  • Washington Post – You can customize daily email newsletters by topic, columnist, etc. Good to check out your local paper to make sure you hit on news relevant to your hometown.
  • Yahoo! – The OLD homepage. I like to see what’s the most popular news of the day/hour.



Events

  • Eventful – This weekly email is specific to my location and points me to all types of events by topic, location, venue, genre, etc.
  • Ticketmaster – This weekly email points me to all events in and around my area, and particularly shows newly posted events or those with tickets going on sale in the coming days.

Friends & Family

  • Facebook – Kevin Berardinelli likes this.
  • LinkedIn – Best for professional updates and networking for business/employment/research opportunities.
  • TwitterTweetDeck is best on desktop. With a categorization of actual close friends you follow, it’s helpful for staying up-to-date with friends and colleagues. Twitterfon (now called Echofon) or Twitterrific are good on iPhone.

Magazine Subscriptions

  • Amstat News – The magazine of the American Statistical Association. I’m sure some associations or groups related to your topical interests have free or cheap newsletters and publications… so be sure to look around!
  • National Geographic – Best photography ever. And simple stories on basic science that should be of interest to readers aged 6 to 106.
  • Washingtonian – Good local magazine (and it’s cheap). Look around for a hard-copy publication specific to your hometown. It’ll make you feel good.
  • Wired – The best, although I hear FastCompany is on its heels as being coolest?

And Some Rules To Live By…

1. Stay calm. News and technology will always find a way to come to you. You’re the consumer.
2. Stay sane. Take vacations from technology and the internet. Read the paper version of the paper.
3. Stay human. Get news through conversation. Hear what others read. See what others use.

And so I ask you… how do you get your news?

My Alltop – overview and feedback

My Alltop is a simple, intuitive way to manage lots of news headlines from a broad range of topics and sources. It reduces my clicks and browser windows and drives me to read more diversely. However, I am already beginning to feel overwhelmed as I’m up to about 30+ feeds in 5+ major categories. Although I’m happy with its current state, My Alltop needs a couple new features and functionality enhancements if it hopes to be one of my primary click recipients…

Click Here to Visit My Personal Alltop Page


About Alltop (from their site)

“The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.

We do this by collecting the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a topic. We group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. Then we display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. Our topics run from adoption to zoology with photography, food, science, religion, celebrities, fashion, gaming, sports, politics, automobiles, Macintosh, and hundreds of other subjects along the way.

You can think of Alltop as the “online magazine rack” of the web. We’ve subscribed to thousands of sources to provide “aggregation without aggravation.” To be clear, Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.”

Some Initial Feedback

1. Feed Management/Layout – The “Manage” window where you can drag and drop your feeds does not match up with My Alltop’s actual layout, due to a big advertisement in the top right of the My Alltop page. It’s not the easiest thing to order feeds how I would like them either. When I drag and drop a feed to a new position, it auto-shifts feeds that I had already positioned in proximal locations. It should be much simpler. How about a “My Feeds” list/column from which you can drag and drop or remove feeds from real estate boxes? Then over time I can always activate or deactivate my feeds, but still have the full set of feeds I am or have been interested in from which I can choose.

2. Feed Categorization – Let users categorize their feeds on the page. Then I can open/close categories to make the best use of my screen real estate at any time. This could then allow me to have a master feed for each category, sorted by date and listing the authoring site. I’m not saying to reproduce Google Reader, but I think there is some simple similar functionality that could and should be employed to make it easier to organize incoming information.

3. New/Old Links – Another similarity to Google Reader would be a functionality that shows new links versus those that have already been seen by the user. Google Reader marks a post or article as read as the reader scrolls past it. In My Alltop, it’d be simply useful to see which links are new on the page, whether or not they have been scrolled over for a preview or clicked on and opened in a new page. The easiest implementation would be something in conjunction with comment #2 above, where in a master feed the latest links are always at the top of the list, similar to Twitter’s homepage (but now for news articles from multiple sources).

Summary

–Google Reader certainly fits a different use case but provides a nice functional model for accessing and organizing lots of news information. So does Google Fast Flip, which was just released and allows for “fast-flipping” of articles from major news publishers, organized by topic, section, and source.

–Incremental developments are helpful for user retention and sustained engagement. With that, there are some simple features that, if implemented, would greatly improve usability and comfort for the My Alltop user.

–My Alltop should continue to become a nice complement to Google Reader and Twitter as primary, personal hubs of near real-time information. Check it out!