By Jonathan Mathias
Every so often there comes along an app or website that almost every publication dedicates loads of column inches to. Obviously Twitter was a big deal when it launched (and still is). Quora, on the other hand suddenly popped up as 'the new Wikipedia’, but failed to live up to the hype. As did Draw Something/OMGPOP, remember that? (Zynga probably wants to forget all about it).
Now the new kid on the block is Summly. Written by 17 year old Nick D'Aloisio, you’d be hard pressed to have missed all the acres of news coverage on it – which is hardly surprising given the backing it’s got. It seems that the news aggregating and summarising app is a panacea for how we can possibly cope with information overload in our increasingly hectic and mobile lives.
I’ve been trialling the app over the past week or so and, not wanting to get into a full on review, it’s alright. It is hard to navigate, as pointed out in this BBC piece, the majority of the stories seem to just come from Reuters, Sky and the Guardian and my biggest peeve is that it doesn’t update very often for me, particularly my custom searches where most of the content is days old, so I’m worried about missing things, which kind of defeats any time-saving element.
Indeed, from the same BBC piece I mention, this quote stands out for me: "We can really become the de-facto format for news on mobile. People are not scrolling through 1,000-word articles - they want snack-sized information." That’s some claim. Summly does seem to fall somewhere between Twitter and actually visiting individual news sources, but it gets me thinking about the whole cause and effect that leads to an app like Summly being created in the first place.
People don’t seem to have time any more to read just about anything, certainly not long feature articles – and definitely not on a week day. So, one would surmise, it would make sense that apps like Summly would find success in addressing this. I’m really not sure they do, though. I think it’s a case of ‘more speed less haste’. You’re really going to be better off just making the time to read and understand things properly to begin with.
A commonly used phrase on the internet, ‘too long; didn’t read’, shortened to tl;dr, is often used at the end of long posts for those who can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, so...
tl;dr: Summly fills a gap in the market, but does it address the underlying issue?