News Republic’s Amazing Mobile Firehose

Gilles Raymond, News Republic’s founder and CEO, likes to use big numbers to describe his business: its app is available in 40 countries and 29 languages; news sourcing comes from 1500 separate deals with information providers, ranging from Reuters to The Guardian or Business Insider in the Western world, but also Hearst China, Sohu News (China), Baidu News (China), China Times (Taiwan), India Today (India), Hindustan Times (India). Altogether, they provide 50,000 pieces of information (articles, photos, videos) per day.

From the user’s standpoint, News Rep is an endless firehose of information that can be tamed in two ways: the application automatically “learns” from the reader’s usage patterns, and it can be manually customized. Surprisingly, 65% of News Rep users actually opt for  significant customization. This can be seen as both positive and negative signs. On the one hand, such a high rate of deliberate personalization could signal strong user engagement. On the other, that same behavior might just expose shortcomings in the startup’s learning engine that explain why users still need manual fine-tuning. (I have yet to find any automated personalization feature that works well enough for me.)

Regardless of its imperfections, the app does the job. It works well both for breaking news (the Russian Airliner crash in Egypt showed up quickly in News Rep), and for news features on a wide range of topics.

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