The personalized news space is heating up, and players that can't keep up are going to fry.
Personalized mobile magazine Pulse on Friday announced a new update to its free mobile app for iPhone and Android: Pulse 2.0, which now features speedier performance, new content sources, and improved news discovery tools, and better social sharing features.
Created last spring by Stanford graduate students Ankit Gupta and Akshay Kothari as part of a course at the Institute of Design, Pulse is one of dozens of personalized news startups that are focusing on making the news customizable. Users simply open the app, select a news category, and start customizing their reading experience with their favorite news sources among their favorite topics.
The new update now allows users to select from 60 news sources (up from the previous 20 sources) across five customizable pages, which users can populate using a simple drag-and-drop feature.
For those who prefer the serendipitous glee of stumbling upon a great article from a news source you don't normally read, the Pulse 2.0 update now allows users to auto-populate a page with the top sources in their favorite categories by selecting "Pulse pack." Additionally, every Friday, Pulse will highlight a top publisher in a "Featured Sources" section. Interesting that it's not a "featured stories" section.
The new update also promises better social integration, allowing users to share and "like" with greater ease, as well as three times the speed.
But is it enough? Pulse is swimming in a sea of competitors who are similarly looking for new and innovative ways to personalize content, but the most promising ones are those that are focusing more on social context. Readers want their devices to intuitively know what they want--ergo, they want their news to be ready and waiting for them like coming home to their favorite dinner after work. Services like Trove, Zite, and Flipboard have caught onto the trend and allow users to connect via Facebook and Twitter so that their interests and behavior is instantly uploaded. Furthermore, some services are even designed to learn from the user's behavior based on what they click as well as what they don't click.
And the competition is ramping up. Earlier this week, Kara Swisher of All Things D reported that Flipboard is rumored to be raising funds for a $200 million valuation. For a service that is generating absolutely no revenue yet, that's a big number.
Is Pulse ready to compete? Users are clearly enjoying it. Pulse has been selected as one of 50 apps to be inducted into the App Store Hall of Fame, and it was recently named one of TIME’s top 50 iPhone apps of 2011. So the company, Alphonso Labs, has obviously found its niche.
Image source: Alphonsolabs.com