In the age of Brexit, Trump, trade wars and the Hong Kong rebellion, keeping abreast of current affairs is a struggle for everyone, everywhere.
Apps such as Twitter, BuzzFeed and BBC News have supplanted ‘the daily newspaper’ – now seen as a bearer of recycled ideas and opinions that have already featured on the internet. A Pew Research Centre study found that during the 2016 presidential election fewer than 3% of Americans cited print as their most important source of campaign news. For people under 30, print ranked as their least important source.
So what are the best apps to get your daily news fix?
With its canny category choice and a seemingly never-ending stream of commentary, Twitter is the new morning ritual of reading the daily news and counts over 176 million monthly active users. The app is most popular in the United States, where at the time of writing, the microblogging service has over 30 million active users. Indonesia ranks in second place with approximately 15 million monthly active users, whereas Japan, Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia each account for 11 million monthly active users.
Although Twitter is often praised for diversifying people’s news diets by providing a convenient way of accessing news from multiple sources in one place, the platform is a regular recipient of criticism. Opponents of Jack Dorsey’s company argue that Twitter as a news source may do more to distort users understanding of the world than illuminate it because the app’s built-in incentive rewards speed over depth. When scrolling through their feeds, users face the constant cognitive burden of separating actual news items from the witty takes and the flagrant lies. Despite this, Twitter continues to gain traction; so far this year, the company’s iOS and Android apps have been installed on over 114 million devices.
Tailor-made for news junkies, Google News takes news aggregation to the next level in incorporating tons of trusted news sources and also grouping similar articles together to give readers more perspective on a given story. The app also has a helpful offline reading feature which enables users to take the news with them. Looking at the stats however, the figures of Google News – along with all the other news apps – pale in every possible comparison to Twitter. Boasting over 2.7 million monthly active users worldwide, the app’s most avid users are located in the United States (813k MAU), Germany (205k MU) and Brazil (194k MAU).
Renowned for presenting non-sensational news, the BBC is the world's leading international broadcaster and a venerable information source. Established by the UK government in 1922 to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ the British people, today it appears that BBC News projects more influence overseas than in the UK – at least in the app stores.
Of BBC News apps’ 3M monthly active users, approximately 1.8M are located outside of the UK, namely in the US (566k MAU), and China (373k MAU). Unlike many other news apps, a key feature of BBC News is that it provides its users control over data shared by the app.
Founded in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News is a 24-hour news service which continues to top all cable networks in the United States as the most-watched news station, averaging 2.4 million primetime viewers.
The media outlet, which has long been a favourite of President Trump, also enjoys significant reach and influence in the app stores, averaging over 2 million monthly active users globally. While the overwhelming majority of Fox News app users hail from the States (95%), China accounts for the most user activity outside of the US with 19,000 monthly active users.
Although today’s highly-charged political climate in the US continues to make it difficult for all major news networks to situate themselves at the center of the American political spectrum, Fox News’ reporting as of late has been drawing considerable criticism in the US and overseas for its cosy relationship with the Trump Administration.
The rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle may have upended traditional journalism, but it has also enabled a new kind of media company to prosper. Enter BuzzFeed – a hugely popular digital media company and the internet’s leading source of online GIF listicles.
Established in 2006, the New York startup’s remarkable ascent can be ascribed to its penchant for silly stories and clickable fluff e.g Which Ousted Arab Spring Ruler Are You and 16 Regular Dogs That Look So Much Like Celebs It's Crazy. By delivering bite-sized information that’s also shareable across social media, Buzzfeed capitalises on the short-attention span of younger audiences who are accustomed to consuming 140-character information or short, visual updates. According to our data, globally, BuzzFeed’s Android and iOS apps have around 1.8M monthly active users (end of Q3 2019).
While BuzzFeed is still most renowned for its silly stories, the online media company has quietly diversified to more serious analytic and investigative journalism in an attempt to establish itself as a major news outlet. In the past two years, in addition to being nominated for eight Pulitzer Prize nominations, Buzzfeed has also won multiple journalism awards including ONA awards for its reporting on match-fixing in tennis and Russian assassinations in Britain and America.
Probably the Godfather of news aggregator apps, Flipboard serves as more of a personal smart magazine for leisurely reading rather than frenetic updates on the go. Featuring a sleek and clean format, Flipboard’s users are guaranteed a good reading experience on any device. The app culls news and opinion pieces from a variety of sources including the major media outlets as well as niche websites. Flipboard’s users also like that the app crawls Facebook and Twitter to present updates from friends alongside regular news stories. At the end of Q3 2019, Flipboard recorded 1.9 million monthly active users – 32% of which are US based.
The sheer multitude of information sources available to us online means it is harder than ever to find out what is accurate. Social media and mobile apps have amped up the pressure on media establishments to push out news faster. After a story breaks, we are often buzzed with a notification before many of the facts are in – meaning that our social feeds and news apps can sometimes be awash with competing stories. The widespread use of artificial intelligence making audio and video as easy to fake as text is not helping matters either. On that point, we thought it appropriate to share with you some websites devoted to fact-checking controversial and disputed stories making waves on the internet. To separate the wheat from the chaff, you may want to make use of: snopes.com, factcheck.org, Hoax-Slayer.net and politifact.com.