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What Summly’s Acquisition Says About Online Journalism

Yesterday, hot on the heels of its recent spate of acquisitions, Yahoo! picked up an interesting little app started by a 15-year-old kid in his family’s London home. The app, Summly, was rumored to be picked up by the search company for a cool $30 million, and it stands to change the way Yahoo! looks at news generation.

More importantly, Summly has the potential to revolutionize how digital news is ingested, both online and on mobile.

The impetus for Summly came to teenage Nick D’Aloisio when he realized that the physical activity of sorting through and reading his daily online news was just exhausting. Founded in 2011, Summly cut down news articles by distilling their words into simple, 400-character summaries and displaying them on a mobile interface that catered to the user’s specific tastes.

Check out Summly’s concise description, with Stephen Fry, below:
 

It makes sense that Yahoo! would want to pick up the website to boost its mobile offering, but it also makes a bold statement about what news aggregators are looking for in a news acquisition. It’s a stark fact that Summly’s whole process centers around cutting a publication’s reporting down to a few simple words — it’s a reflection of the ever-shortening online attention span that has placed Twitter at the top as a tool for news. It’s not a stretch to consider that these sorts of news “snapshots” will become the norm, integrating more easily into social sharing programs like Twitter and Facebook without sacrificing valuable real estate.

While the dawn of shortened news briefs is currently gaining steam, it’s not quite time to bury the traditional news brief or long form journalism at large. But, it does raise the issue that digital journalism at large may not just be bringing the newspaper directly online — users may be more interested in using news as a tool, rather than a medium for consumption.

What do you think of Summly and its affect on digital journalism? Let us know in the comments.

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