Tinder for News

It’s a bit of a running gag that a lot of startups pitch themselves as «[already successful startup] for [some other context]». Then again, it’s a perfectly valid way to explore new ideas. So how about Tinder for news?

I think you can derive an interesting navigation concept for news from Tinder. Today, the way news is presented to you is usually a list to choose from. Sometimes that list is designed to look more like a grid, sometimes the list is basically a stream, but from an abstract point of view, it’s a list of items and you pick what’s interesting to you, one link at a time. You go back to the list, repeat.

Enter Tinder.

So, in case you’re not familiar with Tinder: It’s a matchmaking app, you’re presented one person at a time and by swiping left or right, you decide whether you like that person or not. If two people have liked each other, they can chat. Simple as that. (here’s a little more context, if you need it

Now, let’s try this for news.

  • Every time you open the app, you’re presented news items you haven’t seen yet, one at a time.
  • If you’re interested, you swipe to the right, if not, to the left. You repeat as long as you want or until no more new content is available.
  • Once you stop the selection process, the news from all items you marked as interesting are presented to you in the form of a briefing.

Why should I even care?

  • It adds a level of (engagement boosting) playfulness that most news sites lack almost entirely – without trivialising any of the content.
  • For the user, it removes friction because deciding to read a story doesn’t take her away from the list, only at the end. It’s likely that a user will end up reading more stories per session.
  • You get usage data you normally don’t have: stories people have actively decided against. You can use it as an internal metric to improve your stories.
  • Since you know about all the stories a user has liked and disliked, you can tailor the (order of the) stories you serve to her the next time she visits.
  • If you want to add a layer of complexity, let the user – just like Tinder – add some limitations to what stories are presented to her (say, «No Sports»).

Mind you, I haven’t really thought this through, it’s an idea quickly sketched out. Let’s discuss.

Hat tip to mathiasmenzl for bringing this up in a Skype conversation lately (although he had something slightly different in mind if I remember correctly).

After publishing this, I googled «Tinder for News» and, proving the rule that there is nothing that doesn’t already exist on the internet, found Buffer’s Daily App. They’ve adapted the Tinder mechanism to news and market it as «Tinder for content sharing». It looks, though, as if it wasn’t so much about reading news, but oversharing news you haven’t really read.

Here’s another app that applies Tinder’s mechanics to news: Potluck. Swiping right saves the article for later, clicking on it gives a brief summary to swipe through (thx to Betaworks’ Justin Van Slembrouck for pointing me to it). 

But let’s not confuse the job of moving mountains with expressing the human condition. Michelangelo famously said:

«In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.»

That’s the really exciting opportunity.  There are stories within the volumes of new data being generated all the time that just need insightful people to reveal them.

Meet Dao Nguyen. She helped BuzzFeed quintuple traffic in two years. The secrets behind how she became one of the most important and beloved BuzzFeeders.

«Do what you can do extremely well. Don’t publish filler.»
«I’m one person with a Twitter account. It’s indicative of a much bigger problem. If I can disrupt your content distribution strategy from my iPhone, then maybe something is wrong with your content distribution strategy.»
— Jake Beckman, who runs the clickbait-crushing Twitter account @SavedYouAClick, after he had been accused of spoiling the experience of a Vox.com longread. (source)

Ask the right questions, get the right metrics.

«Viele Journalisten und Medienmanager versuchen dem Publikum klarzumachen, dass mit seinen Bedürfnissen etwas nicht stimmt. Es geht aber nicht darum, dem Publikum zu erklären, warum das, was wir bisher gemacht haben, unverzichtbar ist. Es geht darum, für das Publikum unverzichtbar zu werden.»
— Michael Fleischhacker, editor in chief of NZZ.at, in the welcome post of the new digital venture.

A memo, not a sea of headlines

Quartz, which had pioneered the no-homepage stream view now seen at various news sites, has moved on to an actual home page. Again, they are trying novel ways to welcome users.

Yes, the homepage is still dead, which is why our new front door is quite different from most. Now, when you come to qz.com, we are offering an efficient briefing on global business news, called the Brief. It’s intended to be read straight through, like a well written memo from a trusted advisor. What it’s not is a sea of headlines, like you find on the homepages of many news sites.

Read the full announcement.