In a certain way, the web is a terrible medium for trying to read articles. Your browser is full of distractions like Twitter and email that need constant attention. Which might be why users of News.me, the betaworks service created in conjunction with the New York Times, read an average of six times more articles on their tablets than they do when browsing News.me via the web.
“The experience on the tablet is more immersive, more contextual,” said Jake Levine, general manager at News.me. “When the iPad first came out everyone was complaining about how you couldn’t multitask, but I think more and more publishers and app creators are coming to see this as an advantage.”
The new iOS has push notifications, which have enabled some amazing features like Foursquare radar. “I think there is a lot of potential there, but it may come at the expense of the focus we found among our tablet readers,” said Mr. Levine.
Another trend that has popped up among News.me readers is heavy usage on days that break their typical routine. “People have very set patterns of news consumption, but we are seeing that when this changes, around a holiday for example, users want to be able to understand what they missed.” If the people you follow on Twitter represent the average amount of information you want to consume each day, those are the best guides for what you missed. “On News.me, users are looking to tap into their social graph to surface the most relevant stories, the ones that got people talking, as they play catch up.”
The massive sales of Amazon’s Kindle Fire over the holiday weekend have many in the tech blogosphere declaring a new era in the tablet market. But Mr. Levine says that News.me will continue to be iOS and HTML5. What is interesting to him is less the hardware platforms than the new social networks. “I look at my Facebook account and there are hundreds of people who were relevant to me when I joined five years ago that I have no connection to now. I think for News.me, we’re going to be paying close attention to the smaller, splinter networks that are forming around very specific activities.”