Price: Free [Premium tier: $$3.99/£3.49 per month]
Size: 11 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
We first covered Ground (as it was then known) back in February 2019, when we weren’t especially impressed by the breaking news app’s buggy nature and scattershot layout. However, we certainly dug its novel approach to news aggregation and its slick looks.
Two years and as many major updates down the line, it’s time to check back in with the rebranded Ground News. The heart of the app remains the same as before – news aggregation that goes out of its way to give you both sides of the story. Or rather, all three sides of the story.
Head into a story from the app’s main News carousel and a wide range of news sources covering that subject will be presented and categorized on a broad political spectrum of left, right, or center. Many would argue about the reductive nature of this categorisation, not to mention the accuracy of some of the designations, but it’s an interesting attempt to lay bare where each publication is shooting from, especially in such polarized times.
There’s even a Blindspot tab that will surface stories that have a clear political bias one way or the other. We’re not sure what you’re supposed to do with the news that a story is ‘15% Right’, but it’s useful as a means of filtering out one side from the other, particularly if you’re looking to escape from that dastardly echo chamber and take in some opposing views to broaden your perspective.
New to version 4 is an AI-driven Ground Summary that gives you a pithily written rundown of each story. The language used here has a definite artificial edge to it, but it serves its purpose.
Another thing that Ground News implements is a bias rating. This isn’t generated through some opaque algorithm from the developer, but rather is taken from third party organizations that monitor such things. The last thing you want is a biased bias rating!
You’ll also find that sources are given a Factuality rating, which attributes a score (low, medium, or high) for how reliable they are. Again, it’s third-party organizations that inform this, based on factors such as their use of credible sources and their record of correcting errors.
The app retains a personalized news element too, but it no longer asks you for a list of interests from the outset. Instead, you must head into the My Topics tab and actively Unfollow subjects that you’re not interested in. It’s a pretty fundamental shift in focus, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to our thinking – especially given that there’s no quick and easy way to deselect topics.
More positive is the dedicated Map tab, which sorts stories according to their location on an interactive map. It’s an interesting way to ground the news you’re skimming through in the real world.
The original app’s Citizen Journalism angle has been all but removed, and it’s a shame that the developer was unable to develop this further.
Thankfully, the bugs that once plagued the app also appear to have been excised. It was stable throughout our time with the latest build. One thing we did notice is the odd news source anomaly, such as a hyper-local local story from Canada when we had set our location as the UK.
All in all, Ground News finally fulfils its brief of providing a uniquely clear-eyed view of international news. Its comparative tools are somewhat blunt, but they provide a genuinely viable means of getting a more rounded take on any news story.