Yes, there is more to online news aggregators than Google News, Yahoo news or Topix. Or so says Neal Goldman, who just launched a news site called Inform.
What makes Inform different? It’s best just to play with it and see for yourself (or view this tutorial). But Inform has a few features worth noting, such as its “Discovery Bar” drop-down menu for each story that shows links to related topics, people, places, industries and organizations. Also, instead of linking to a news story and sending users off the Inform site, as Google or Topix do, Inform presents the story in a frame. That allows Inform to wrap its own navigation links (and ads) around the content (note: this doesn’t appear to happen in Firefox).
Goldman and his crew developed much of the concept for Inform while running CapitalIQ, a subscription news service for the financial industry that he sold to McGraw-Hill for $225 million. Goldman is taking the proceeds from that sale and pumping them into Inform.
“What we’re doing is taking that mindset and tapping into news for the consumer,” Goldman told us last week.
There are some annoying technical aspects that will immemdiately alienate some users, such as this message on the splash page: “Note that this site is optimized for Internet Explorer 6.0 or greater. It will also work in Firefox, but you will not have the benefit of some of the unique navigational aspects.” That’s probably why we ended up stuck on a page with our back button disabled and nowhere to go but to the home page. It seems insane that in this day and age we’re still developing web sites intended to work in just one browser, but there you have it.
Goldman is sky high on the concept. The company’s Powerpoint presentation is subtitled “Revolutionizing How People Consume and Use News” And there’s this, from yesterday’s New York Times:
To his mind, Inform.com is a media revolution in the making. “Work still needs to be done,” he said. “But the direction we’re going in gives us all the tools to build the ultimate newspaper of the future.”
Time will tell whether users agree with him.