Storyful for iOS says it can help you “separate the news from the noise.” It plucks interesting news stories from social media networks, spotting the stuff that’s trending and turning it into a news feed. That all sounds great, until you start trying to use it – although it’s a great idea with great promise, it’s let down by too many performance problems.
Storyful says it has a global team of journalists scouring the news on social networks 24 hours a day. “We unearth the smartest conversations about world events and raise up the authentic voices on the big stories,” it says.
Well, that’s the idea. How does the iOS app perform? Unfortunately, not as well as it should. There’s a lingering slowness to everything, and sometimes, story pages take ages to load any content. Too often, I was left looking at a spinning “activity” icon and nothing else.
Also, browsing the folders view (which displays stories rather like Time Machine displays backed up documents, with older ones fading into the distance) is maddening. You can use it to roughly flick through time to get an idea of what’s been going on, but getting it to stop on a particular story is frustratingly hard work. You sometimes find yourself stepping backwards and forwards over the story you want, trying to get the story list to stop where you want it to. This gets easier as you spend more time using the app, but for newcomers it’s annoying.
Other things are simply baffling. There’s a tab at the bottom called “Current tags” – what it will show me isn’t exactly clear. Is it supposed to be a list of trending news topics? (I hope so, that’d be nice.) Or is it tags I’ve tapped while using the app? (That, too, would be quite useful.) As far as I can tell, it’s neither of those. It appears to be a random list of tags, most with only one story to show me. The tags include “Laos”, “Andorra” and “Fashion”, none of which are of much interest to me I’m afraid. Is there any visible means of editing them? No. OK.
I love the idea of Storyful. There is, without any doubt, far too much news out there for most of us to cope with. Any company that can consistently, helpfully and reliably curate the best and most interesting articles from around the world is going to earn trust, and trust is a valuable commodity these days. I want to use something like Storyful, and if it was fast and dependable, I would.
I can see from the headlines it shows me that Storyful is capable of doing this, but right now, the app wrapped around it is not up to the task. There’s too much that doesn’t work, or doesn’t work fast enough, or is simply confusing. Perhaps future updates to the app will fix these problems. I hope so, because there’s an excellent personal news app in here, struggling to get out.
Pro: Has potential to make news more interesting and less of a chore
Con: Serious performance issues; needs to be faster and better all round in order to earn readers’ trust