UPDATE: In light of the TechCrunch preview, the New York Times reached out to clarify some points on News.me:
- It says it is officially a betaworks product, not a Times one
- News.me was a prototype designed in the Times Company's R&D lab, which was then sold to betaworks in exchange for equity in the web address shortening website bit.ly
- betaworks has a content deal with the Times, so "certain New York Times content" will be available on News.me in the future
Today the News Corp. (NWS) launches The Daily, the first newspaper made specifically for the Apple (APPL) iPad. Rival New York Times has responded by supporting News.me, which was previewed by TechCrunch yesterday. TechCrunch described News.me as
a social news reading app that presents the news that the people you follow on Twitter are reading, and filters it based on how many times those stories are shared and clicked on overall.The problem is that News.me is a glorified newsfeed, not an actual publication. The Times better come up with another response, as it brings nothing that hasn't already been on the iPad.
Sounds like Flipboard
The Times and business partner betaworks previewed News.me for TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld. News.me uses your Twitter data, as well as bit.ly, the betaworks link-shortening service, to determine what stories are being shared the most. Those stories are highlighted, and can be shared on your own social networks. The visual interface can also be used to scan individual people you follow on the social networks, too.
Sound familiar? It is a rip on the popular social media magazine Flipboard -- available on the iPad since last summer. As Schonfeld notes, there is no marked improvement over Flipboard. Worse, while Flipboard is free, News.me says it will charge for the "newspaper". It didn't reveal how much it would cost.
No original content
Design topics aside, News.me has one other issue: No original content. Schonfeld made no mention of New York Times reporters -- natch, any reporters -- providing original stories for the iPad publication, which, in light of the competition, the Times would have mentioned (though, as stated in the update, it will have access to some Times articles). Compare this with The Daily:
In contrast, The Daily will produce its own articles and videos with a staff of 100 journalists. It is not clear how many social features will be included in The Daily, but the emphasis seems to be more on the original content.
In other words, News.me isn't really a response -- because it's not even a newspaper. News.me didn't do itself any favors by aping the model of a media darling from last summer and comparing itself to a truly revolutionary media platform by a rival. The Daily is already casting a long shadow, and, at this point, News.me deserves to be eclipsed by it.