UPDATE: August 2016. This app is no longer being offered. But read on and remember a cool concept, and hope for something similar to return to the news landscape. We can all use a little humor in our daily news!
I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a news junkie. I do my best to stick to tech news and the major headlines, and I try to stay away from the comment sections. I think it’s good to be informed, but in a world where endless news articles are just a click away, some balance is required to not find yourself immersed by the torrent. Enter, smart news applications.
Smart News apps are designed to give you a quick burst of news. Not too much, but not too little. I’ve already reviewed one of my favorites, Yahoo News Digest, in a previous “App of Note”. Today I want to introduce you to another. And I’ll get this out of the way first, it is currently iOS only. So if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad, you are out of luck for the moment. But do read on, for this sweet little news app will certainly come to Android in the future, and if you’ve got a good sense of humor, and a tolerance for minor vulgarity, this news app will keep you informed while it’s making you laugh, and it’s called “Funny or Die News Flash”.
What Makes a Good Smart news App?
1. Scheduled Delivery– Smartnews should come at specific times during the day, versus constantly being updated. That way you can read all the content, and you know you’re done until the next delivery. Just like the good ole newspaper!
2. Short Informative Articles – Smartnews should be a quick read. I’m talking about the walk from the car to the office, or an elevator ride. You should barely need to scroll down through the article, because your goal is to know the top stories and that’s it. There are plenty of apps offering a more lengthy take on the news of the day (see #3)
3. Links, Links, and more Links – While a smartnews app is designed to be a short read it should offer links to get to longer articles, or even related articles from within the app.
4. Social Element – Smartnews should at the very least offer buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Text, and Email. That way if you read an article you want to share with others, it’s just a click to send it on it’s way.
5. Intelligent Swiping – This one might just be me, but every smartnews app I’ve used makes use of up/down and left/right swiping in intuitive ways. That’s the key to a quick read. Read what is on the screen, swipe left, read the next story, swipe left, and so on. You want to send to Facebook, swipe up, click the icon, and off it goes. If a smartnews app is clunky, it is no longer serving it’s purpose.
So let’s see how the “Funny or Die News Flash” application stacks up to my criteria.
It Offers a Good News Spectrum
The app takes brevity to a whole new level. Each “story” is designed with two sections. The first part is the informative news piece. The second part is the joke related to the first part. It can literally be two sentances. That certainly puts the “flash” in news flash. But while the articles are incredibly short, they are also very diverse. US, International, Business, Entertainment, Sports, Tech. They don’t all show up each day, but I’ve seen them all appear from time to time. I checked the articles showing in the app against some of my other favorite smartnews apps, and I found they all had similar stories, because they all cover the most popular things in the media at the time. So for “short informative articles” Funny or Die News Flash nails it.
It Offers Social Element and Links
Each article includes a “share” button, which allows you to send the story to a wide variety of sources. These include Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Flipboard, and Pocket. Along with standard email and text links. Across from the “share” button is a link to the “Full Story”, which includes the name of the source (i.e. Baltimore Sun, Telegraph). Clicking this link takes you into Safari and you are able to read the entire story, which is great. So “Funny or Die News Flash” is solid with “link, links, and more links” and the “social element”.
It Offers a Slick Interface
One reason I love the Yahoo News Digest is how the swiping works. There you just swipe left/right to go through the articles, and up/down to read the articles. The “Funny or Die News Flash” just takes out the up/down element. Each articles is a single page, and you swipe left/right through them. You might be think, “what’s so slick about that?”. Well the really cool part is the video element. This is the first app I’ve seen that basically has a GIF running for every story, relevant to the article it covers. That means you actually have a short video (muted), playing while you read the story. It looks great. It loads fast! So “intelligent swiping” is a solid yes.
Where it Hits, and Where it Misses
The other thing “Funny or Die News Flash” has that no other smartnews app I’ve seen has is the humor. I’ve found myself laughing out loud at some of the jokes they tie to current headlines. It’s like having a comedian reading the news, which is really the only way the news should be read in my opinion. I get to be informed and entertained at the same time. So that is a big HIT for this application.
The only element I find frustrating is related to “scheduled delivery”. The app seems to only refresh at certain times during the day, but there’s no control over that (like there is in other smartnews apps, like Yahoo News Digest). And I have found that they tend to add new articles to the front of the “news feed” while leaving some articles on the back end that I’ve already read. Those jokes were certainly funny the first time I read them, but they lose their kick the next go around. And I really want to swipe to the very end, because that’s when the Funny or Die News Flash delivers, what I think is it’s best joke (to the right).
The Whole Cup Summed Up
Smartnews apps are a great way to get fast news on mobile devices. They keep you informed while not taking up too much of your time. It’s the perfect tool for someone constantly on the go. Who has time to watch CNN, MSNBC, or the rest of the 24 hour news cycle anyway? With “Funny or Die News Flash” your in, you laugh, your out, and more clued in to what is going on in the news for the day.
If you have an iPhone and a good sense of humor, pick up the Funny or Die News Flash right now! It’s free and it’s hilarious. Well worth the few minutes it takes to get through the content. And if the news stories of the day aren’t so rosey, don’t they say that laughter is the best medicine?