Will this new ground-breaking breaking news app break new ground or is it grounds for a break?
Size: 46.2 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Ground is a breaking news app that can largely be summarised in two ways. Let’s take a look.
First, it’s a news curation app. When you first register, you’re asked what kind of things you’re interested in. You can select categories based on your interests, or the type of content you’re interested in. It will then auto-populate your feed with relevant news. You can edit your topics to fine-tune the categories as you get used to the system. We found we were initially overwhelmed so it might be worth keeping a narrower feed at the start.
Alongside your feed are a number of categories at the top – there’s Top Stories, as well as My Places, where you can choose news based on your location. Next there is a Local feed, before the menu begins to include feeds based on subject matter.
This felt a bit muddled to us – for example, Top Stories often felt too similar to My Feed, and My Places often felt too similar to Local.
However, My Feed is where you’ll spend most of your time if you’re just a reader. If you want to read a story, tap your selection and you’ll be taken to a page which includes a summary and shows the various news sources that have reported the story. This is a really interesting take for news. Tapping the story will take you to the news page of the first news outlet, but it’s nice to have the option to just read a summary and then decide where to read the whole story.
It also includes tags such as location, and offers links to similar stories.
The app’s secondary approach is to position itself as a citizen journalism app. But what exactly is citizen journalism? The term first became mainstream with the advent of Twitter, where users on the ground in various locations would begin reporting a story as it happens. (We reckon this concept is where the app got its name from.)
This instantaneous reportage is a key feature on the app, and it’ll be intriguing to see it develop. And we don’t just mean develop as in “get more users.” First, we’d like to see the feature develop. It seems odd that an app that makes such a point of making its users part of the news cycle, has provided a feature that, for us, just didn’t work.
To report news on the ground from your own perspective, you have to go to settings and tap Citizen Journalism. You then have to sign up to use the feature. Unfortunately, when we tried to put an email and a password in, it told us passwords didn’t match… but there was only one box for a password. When we tried to login via Twitter, it took us back to My Feed.
Similarly, the Explore tab along the bottom no longer works for us. The first time we used it, we were shown various news stories based on location. However, after that it just showed an empty map and instructed us to swipe up for stories… but swiping up did nothing.
So where does this leave us? Ultimately this is an app with two main strands: the news curation side of things is great, building on the Apple News system by adding summaries, multiple trusted sources, and a tracking system that reveals where your news bias lies. Meanwhile, the citizen journalism aspect is a great idea on paper that just doesn’t work very well yet in practice.
If you like the sound of filtered news from trusted sources this could be a slam dunk, but sadly a large chunk of the app is held back by the bugs we mentioned earlier. This is one to keep an eye on, as the next few updates could make or break Ground’s success in the future.