Interesting summary of types of news readers by Brent Simmons.
Headlines falls into the second category, though it does not try to be a typical productivity-type mailbox-type app too much. I however did get some feedback suggesting that I could move into the newspaper territory.
These tend to have significant server backends that not only read various feeds and sites but also assemble (via algorithms and curation) a set of articles personalized for each user.
The thing is, I don’t have and don’t want a backend.
Second - I want my users to be in control and able to consume exactly what they ordered, so to speak. The backend would require curating the sources catalogue, which could take a tremendous amount of effort, especially that my app would need to cater to various languages and cultures, not just the english-speaking ones.
Also, I feel that such app would try to come into a territory that’s soon to be seized by the largest company in the world with its enormous resources, as well as both human and non-human machine-learned curators.
To make it a little easier, the app does some very objective classification of a few common types of feeds, so if the user is busy or lazy enough, she’s not compelled to read everything in order to clear the unread counts. At one point I actually contemplated on removing the unread counts completely and providing merely an indication of whether a category contains unread items.
There are definitely visual improvements that I could make in order to make the app a little more attractive, eschew the old boring folders-and-story-headers look, and I’m weighing my options in that area. They come at an energy and performance cost after all. Not only does the app need to update the feeds, but also find, fetch and display relevant content, e.g. images for creating nice header backdrops, The Verge style. Perhaps the burden would not that bad after all. With common access to Wi-Fi and fast cellular connections, we can quickly fetch all the extra content to make things a little more interesting.
Any thoughts? Feedback most welcome!