Easily Un-Personalize News Feeds And Follow Top Stories

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Late one night I was browsing Reddit (as you do), and came across a video of Bill Maher talking about customized news feeds (transcript). The whole video is worth watching and it brings up important points we seem to ignore in the pursuit of “personalized news”.

Here are some highlights from the video.

…because the internet, which was supposed to unite the world, has become too adept at serving us personalized content. Do you know what I saw on Yahoo!’s front page this morning? No you don’t, because mine isn’t the same as yours.

Of course, Bill Maher is a comedian who has a daily news show, but it got me thinking about how I consume news. For years I’ve been going on and on about awesome apps and services that give me exactly what I want to read when I want to read it. But I soon realized I’ve been living in a sort of a bubble. Maher says it better than I ever could.

But only seeing the stuff that confirms the opinions you already have isn’t news — it’s Fox News.

Yes, I know everything there is to know in the field I’m interested in. I know which hot startup got the million dollar valuation, which company missed their expected quarterly earning set by suited wall street analysts and I know all about that new app that’s supposed to change everything.

But I know little about the world I choose to live in. That’s not the way of an informed citizen of this world. If there’s a crisis going on 3000 miles away from where I live, I should know how and if it can affect me or if there is any way I can help. It also gives me something to talk about when I actually go out (it happens!) and meet people with more mainstream interests.


So I went on a quest to do just that. I’m not ditching my carefully curated RSS feeds, Flipboard magazines and email newsletters just yet. But I’m adding stuff to it. Even if it is to just gloss over them.

1. Circa News

Circa News is the best way to know about things in clear, bite-sized bursts of text. Circa is not your ordinary news app/website. It doesn’t have multiple articles about one story interlinked like a spider’s web. It has clear stream of cards for a news story. New updates are added to a stream.

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Circa has its own newsroom where its writers rewrite news coverage from the best and most reliable sources (with citations) in small, easy to read sentences. You can follow a story of interest (the app will send push notifications and emails for the updates) or just the top stories for the day. There are also specific categories that are still general – like World News, US, Technology etc.

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If you want to bring the water cooler talk to you, download Circa News, check out the top stories and enable the push notifications (if you can handle them).

2. Yahoo News Digest

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Yahoo News Digest is a simplified news app for iPhone and Android. It recently came out with an international edition I’m particularly fond of. The app takes inspiration from newspapers of yesteryears that used to come out in two editions – morning and evening.

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Yahoo News Digest updates the app two times a day. Both editions have the 8–12 top stories from around the world picked up by the app’s algorithms and editors. There’s no customization. You get notified about it everyday at 8 am and 6 pm. The notification helps a lot. So does the fact that the app is beautiful and really intuitive to use.

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3. Google News

It’s been with us for years and it’s still going strong. If you don’t want to indulge in fancy smartphone apps, try Google News. The website simply lists the top stories and links the best articles for them. There are a lot more links for each subject if you want to get your hands dirty but the top stories will give you a good overview of the situation.

Cool Tip: Set OneFeed as your Chrome start page. It lets you see the top stories from the internet (and also your social media accounts).

4. Flipboard News

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Flipboard has a magazine simply called News, where its editors curate the top stories around the world from the best sources. Unlike the Cover Stories magazine that compiles the best of your subscriptions and interest, this is truly un-customized.

5. World News Subreddit

I browse Reddit, a lot. Subreddits like r/worldnews help a lot by injecting the best of the top stories in my feed.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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