Hitpad — See What’s Up: more reference tool than news app

May 2, 2011
Tech

One of the latest apps to enter the news-curation market for iPad is Hitpad — See What’s Up. Hitpad aims to give users the news they need, seeking out trending topics and analyzing sources, without requiring any effort on the user’s part. Users willing to relinquish control of the news they see should like that […]

One of the latest apps to enter the news-curation market for iPad is Hitpad — See What’s Up. Hitpad aims to give users the news they need, seeking out trending topics and analyzing sources, without requiring any effort on the user’s part. Users willing to relinquish control of the news they see should like that Hitpad selects topics for them, but control freaks might not like the inability to customize.

Hitpad displays its chosen trending topics across the top or down the side of the screen, depending on your orientation. If there’s a topic you want to learn more about, tapping it brings up five swipe-able and scrollable columns that provide news, videos, photos, web links and Twitter results for that keyword. The app defaults to “top stories,” but there are also pre-loaded categories — including entertainment, sports and U.S. and world news — to further narrow your sources. When users want to read an article, the app launches the original source’s web page inline, something that should please media outlets.

I found the concept of the five-column layout to be an interesting way to view news, but I’m not sure its results will help users to truly stay abreast of current events. The videos seemed to pull primarily from YouTube, and weren’t related to the topic other than in sharing a keyword. While this is fine for light entertainment and sports stories, the results were often inappropriate for hard news. The same issue occurred in the photo and web links sections. In this respect, the app becomes more of a reference tool than a pure news aggregator.

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Even though Hitpad clearly states that it wants users to put forth minimal effort, my main issue with the app is that it’s sorely lacking in customization options. You can’t create your own feeds, save your searches or reorder the columns (some people don’t care about Twitter, which displays in the second position).

I get that Hitpad’s concept is to do the work for you, and the app claims it will personalize your results after learning your interests. I allowed the app to access to my Twitter feed, but I didn’t see any change in the topics presented to me. I’m not sure if personalization comes over time (there’s no rating system for stories or topics you like), but by preventing users from customizing the app to their liking, I’m not sure it will stick around long enough to find out.

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Kathryn Swartz

Kathryn Swartz is a freelance writer/editor who doesn't know how people lived pre iPhone. She attended the Missouri School of Journalism.

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