CES 2014: Yahoo unveils news summary app

Yahoo News Digest Image copyright Yahoo
Image caption Yahoo News Digest presents its users with a selection of summarised news stories

Yahoo has launched a news summary app that aims to deliver two daily briefings of eight to nine stories most likely to interest its users.

The News Digest app claims to present readers with "all the stories you need to know about" and brings up a graphic saying "Done" when they have been read.

It is based on Summly, an app created by British teenager Nick D'Aloisio, who now works for Yahoo.

Media analysts are split over the need for such a product.

Mark Mulligan, editor of the Media Industry Blog said the facility could address the needs of busy consumers.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRory Cellan-Jones meets Yahoo's Nick D'Aloisio who developed the app's underlying technology when he was just 15-years-old

"There's a huge amount of information of varying quality being created, and people require a way to steer through all the news - it's a tyranny of choice," he told the BBC.

"The idea of cutting through the clutter and being a trusted curator that can offer quality bite-sized chunks of information definitely addresses a need."

But consultant Bob Eggington, who helped launch BBC News Online, was more sceptical.

"If people are being told they have read enough news they are being misled," he said.

"What Yahoo is saying is: 'We will try to tell you the things we know about that we think are of interest to you' - and both of those statements are highly imperfect."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The app was announced as part of Marissa Mayer's first CES Keynote Address

News of the app's release was revealed by Mr D'Aloisio during a presentation hosted by Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Atomised news

Image copyright Yahoo
Image caption The news app provides video and related links about selected stories

Yahoo News Digest uses software algorithms to scour a variety of online publications including Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider and Sky News.

It then assembles the information gathered into what it terms "atoms", which are selected chunks of text, infographics, maps and Wikipedia extracts about each topic alongside photos, videos and links to the news sources.

"We found that people were willing to consume more content when it was boiled down to the most important bits," said Mr D'Aloisio on the company's blog.

At present the app is only available on the US iPhone App Store and does not allow users to customise the type of stories most likely to interest them.

Android app acquired

Yahoo's news ambitions extend beyond the app.

Ms Mayer's Keynote Address revealed that Yahoo Tech, a advertising-supported technology news site overseen by ex-New York Times writer David Pogue, was now online.

The chief executive also introduced a new digital magazine called Yahoo Food.

In addition, Ms Mayer revealed her firm had taken over Aviate.

The Android app analyses a phone's wi-fi signal, GPS location data and accelerometer sensor to study a user's habits in order to anticipate their needs.

Image copyright Aviate
Image caption Aviate is an app that selects information and other software appropriate to the user's location

For instance it can then bring up a selection of installed workout apps when it believes the handset owner is at the gym or display bus arrival information when it thinks they are waiting for transport.

Advertising overhaul

Investors will probably be more interested in news that Yahoo has unified its suite of digital advertising products.

Facebook recently overtook Yahoo to become the US' second biggest digital ad seller, according to research firm eMarketer. Google remains the market leader.

It adds that the Yahoo's share of worldwide digital ad revenues dropped from 3.4% in 2012 to 2.9% in 2013.

To help address this the web portal has launched three new products and platforms:

  • Yahoo Audience Ads - a service that aims to ensure each advert is delivered to the right audience
  • Yahoo Ad Manager - a new platform to help advertisers select and manage Yahoo's products
  • Yahoo Ad Exchange - a way for "premium publishers" to control how advertising appears on their sites

In addition the firm announced that sponsored posts on Tumblr - the blogging platform it acquired in May - would now be powered by the firm's Yahoo Advertising products.

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