People consume news in very different ways. Not rocket science. That’s why there are a thousand different online services and platforms that deal with making content exist in the format/time/space/place you want it in. However, I’m going to suggest a corollary that is just as obvious but not yet solved: people have different requirements for news format, length and readability on a day-to-day basis. News routines don’t always work.

My news routine tends to be cleaning out my Google Reader, shooting for a zero unread count by day’s end, which covers mostly tech news with some legal stuff, EFF, Ars Technica, that sort of thing. I also periodically pay attention to Twitter, where I follow folks that give me some international perspectives and news I wouldn’t otherwise see. I try to read every tweet in my stream on the day it was produced.

 As you can imagine, this is time-consuming. We optimize our news routines for the days we would like to have, not always the days we do have. I have days where I get stuck in a conference or my schedule goes to shit. Right now, I try and go back through my Google Reader or read my Twitter archive. That really doesn’t work - I just end up with more to catch up on.

I would love the option of shortening my normal news routine, or even having an automated service that selected from the most shared from the articles I would usually read. My primary format these days is text. Sure, I listen to a few podcasts, but those tend to be post hoc analysis heavy, not for breaking news. But there are days when I need to clean my room, and would gladly watch a selection of short news clips while I do that, or days when I’m stuck at a bus stop and would be happy to listen to an hour of in-depth world news.

Ideally, I could have a news curator/aggregator would allow me to say “I have 15 minutes to listen to audio, and I want just the most important stories of the day,” or “I have an hour to read and I want in-depth coverage of the geopolitical situation in Libya.” I haven’t really seen a news product of any type that fully deals with this problem.

So basically, there are a couple of choices I would like:

  • Format (video, audio, long format articles, tweets)
  • Seriousness/Relevance (Libya vs. the Mary Sue’s feed of Doctor Who-related clips)
  • Time (5 minutes vs. an hour vs. endless scroll)
  • Expectedness/Unexpectedness (iPhone news vs. something I wouldn’t normally read)
  • Deep Coverage vs. Breadth  (which could relate to a number of these, but I consider it a separate metric to some extent)

If someone could go build that, that would be great. Or if it already exists, please point me at it.

(Slightly cribbed off of a conversation with the Trimtab conspiracy.)