The Best News Aggregators
Keeping up with current events can feel like information overload. To get the latest updates on your favorite topics, you're probably watching the news, reading your favorite blogs, and scanning your social media channels. In the process, you're likely spending far longer trying to find information than the time you've allocated for catching up on the news.
Luckily, there are apps you can download that will organize breaking news related to your topics of interest. News aggregator apps can save you from spending time individually visiting and scrolling through each website and service — and inevitably falling down the rabbit hole. They compile news from a wide range of sources in one place for easy reading with a selection of articles customized to your taste.
Here are our top picks for the best news aggregator apps.
Best news aggregator: Google News
When you first open Google News, you’ll probably be surprised by how many articles show up that are relevant to you. That’s because Google automatically personalizes your feed based on your Google Search history and YouTube viewing history, bringing you the exact news you’re looking for without any setup. From there, all you have to do is read: Google News will continue to learn based on what you read.
The design focuses on text, with big headlines and small images. Instead of jumping from top story to top story, Google News gives you different perspectives on each topic, often with two to five stories on the same subject grouped together. That makes it a lot easier to get an in-depth look at the news from different perspectives.
It’s also particularly good at finding local news. While most news aggregators will let you follow keywords for your hometown, they usually only dig up articles with the city’s name in the headline. That means they typically pick up stories about your hometown rather than stories from your home town. Google News, on the other hand, gives you a selection of stories from local newspapers and TV networks. Google News is the easiest way to catch up with what’s going on in your neighborhood.
Google News stands out as the best news aggregator for its ease of use, depth of content, especially local news, and the fact that it's ad-free.
Best visually driven news aggregator: Flipboard
Flipboard is a sleek news aggregator with an eye-catching magazine-style layout that focuses on the visuals. Each article in your virtual magazine shows a large image with a headline and source, and you flip through the articles by swiping — just like you’d turn the pages in a physical magazine.
Everything in Flipboard is arranged into smart magazines that you can customize to your liking. You can completely control what Flipboard shows you by giving it a specific list of publications you want to read, or you can give it an idea of your favorite topics and let it do out the rest. As you read, you can "Like" articles or indicate that you want to see "Less like this," and Flipboard will gradually learn what you like and show you more of it.
Flipboard is completely free to use, and you can use it to access publications that require a subscription to read, like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and The New Yorker (just go to Following > Accounts). You just log in with your account. You can also access some of your social media accounts, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Best news aggregator for premium content: Apple News
If you use Apple products, there’s a good chance you use Apple News. This news aggregator is built into the latest versions of iOS and MacOS. It’s easy to get started: when you launch the app, you’ll be presented with a selection of news that’s been curated both by Apple editors and algorithms that tailor news to your tastes. As you read, you can Like or Dislike articles, publications, and topics to customize what you see, but the news you see is always a little random.
Though Apple News is free, it stands out for its huge selection of premium content. A $10/month subscription to Apple News+ gives you access to 300 publications that you won’t find included in any other news aggregator. The subscription includes big names like the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, People, the New Yorker, National Geographic, and a lot more. While Apple News+ is missing some big publications — the New York Times and the Washington Post are both notably absent — you won’t find as much content anywhere else. And, you can always add your existing subscriptions, if they're missing from the News+ lineup.
Another feature you aren’t likely to find in any other news aggregator is privacy. With Apple News, no information is sent to publishers, and advertisements can’t track you.
Price: Free, $10/month for access to more publications
Available on: Installed by default on iOS, MacOS
Best news aggregator for reading offline: SmartNews
Most news aggregators require an internet connection to read the headlines, which can be a problem if you want to read the news when you’re on the subway or on a plane. But SmartNews automatically saves every single story offline so you can read anywhere, anytime. The app will download the news specific times of day so you might set it to download in the morning before you leave for work and again in the afternoon before you head home. The schedule can also help you save bandwidth and battery life since you can download everything when you have a wi-fi connection and a power cable.
Beyond that, SmartNews works a lot like the other readers we’ve discussed. It uses AI to curate the top stories and hottest trends. Stories are organized by topic, with a row of tabs along the top of the app you can tap through to see the latest headlines on any subject. The app isn’t very customizable, though. You can add new tabs to follow publications you’re interested in, and there are tabs for local news (in some cities) — but for the most part, the app doesn’t tailor its content to specifically to you. You’ll find some personalized content in a small “for you” section under the day’s top stories, but that’s it. However, this could be a good thing, as it prevents you from getting stuck in a filter bubble where you are only see the news that shares your point of view.
Best news aggregator for manual control of what you read: Feedly
The news aggregator we’ve mentioned so far all focus on finding news for you, but Feedly focuses on following the blogs and publications that you specifically want to follow. While it can help you discover new stories, it focuses on picking up every story from sources you specify.
Feedly uses RSS feeds — a feature most blogs have, though you may have to search for it (here's how) — to pull every story from a source and present it to you in a clean, uncluttered interface. You tell it exactly what you want to follow — including things like YouTube channels and Tweets — and arrange them by topics. Feedly will list each story in a neat row, with an image, a headline, and an opening paragraph. It’s a straightforward way to follow the headlines on all the sites you’re interested in, without having to check each site individually.
Feedly is free to use but requires a $5/month subscription for advanced features. Free users can access everything we’ve described above, but can only follow 100 publications — probably enough for most of us. Feedly Pro users get an ad-free experience and can follow as many publications as they’d like. Plus they can annotate articles, send them to Evernote or OneNote for reference, and get alerts for Google keywords.
Best news aggregator for news hounds: Inoreader
Like most news aggregators, Inoreader will curate content for you based on your interests, plus it lets you follow specific sites by their RSS feed. Articles are arranged in a neat list of headlines with images, and a quick scroll is all you need to browse the latest news. And you're just interested in reading through one topic, you can select that topic folder from your list of subscriptions. Click on any headline to see the article in full in Inoreader’s minimalist interface. The free version saves articles to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, OneNote and more, which makes it easy to store articles for later reference — a feature that requires a subscription in Feedly.
If you want to fine-tune your reading, Inoreader Pro costs $4/month. It adds notifications, and the ability to follow social media feeds and track search terms to catch news before it even hits your favorite blog. Best of all, there's an offline mode. With offline mode, you can pick a specific folder and all articles in that folder will be saved offline so you can read even when you don’t have an internet connection. And though it isn’t available on the mobile version, if you use Inoreader on the web, subscribers can add filters and mutes to completely customize their reading experience.
The result is that Inoreader is perfect for giving you precisely the news you want without other distractions.
[Image credit: news concept via BigStockPhoto]