How do you take on Apple and Rupert Murdoch? By taking a hard swing into the social field. TechCrunch has the scoop on the rival collaboration between Betaworks and the New York Times that focuses not on a newspaper, but aggregating popular content shared over Twitter. If this sounds a lot like Flipboard and TweetMag already, you’re already very much on target. News.me focuses exclusively on the Twitterverse, previewing articles in streams you choose to follow. The difference? News.me may be a subscription based service, essentially selling licensed web content. What?
News.me is interesting because it attempts to highlight articles based on two factors: recommendations and bit.ly click-thrus. If someone you follow explicitly retweets an interesting article, News.me figures it’s of vast importance for someone to go out of their way to highlight it. You’re more likely to see content that’s recommended than content that’s just added to the cess pool. News.me also makes an attempt to judge how popular an article is based on how many people are clicking through to that link. I’m not sure if I like that premise as you can have content that’s not particularly good, but has a lot of clicks thanks to an interesting or misleading source. Lastly, that bit.ly data can be used to filter topics to sports, tech, politics, and other popular categories allowing you to maintain your sanity when following a few thousand athletes and journalists.
TechCrunch mentions that News.me displays full articles, but is this in a text format or as a webpage? If it’s a webpage, I can’t see why a subscription service would be necessary. What it sounds like is that News.me is formatting full articles in a readable, ad-free text format (ala Read It Later for example), in which case that makes sense. But can News.me really expect people to associate Twitter with cash? You’d have a hard time selling me a monthly, let alone a weekly subscription fee when I can use a competitor’s app or Google RSS at no cost. It’ll be interesting to see what model News.me explores, what their subscription service will entail, and whether the popularity of the New York Times can convince the iPad savvy that they’re cool enough for a read.