The platform plots material on a radar-style design to communicate the type of content it is

Credit: By Marshall Astor on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

A new app which aims to offer background content on complex subjects in the format of a digestible 'radar' is due to launch later this year.

Netherlands-based project Reading Radar was one of 14 winners of last year's IPI News Contest, describing itself as delivering "the stories behind the news".

The platform offers readers a collection of around 20 pieces of content offering background information on a given subject and displayed on a radar-style diagram, the design of which is aimed at demonstrating to the reader the nature of the content within.

The horizontal line of the radar places opinion-style content on the left and factual content on the right, while the vertical line places historical information at the bottom and "future perspectives" at the top. Content is also plotted based on its connection "to the leading topic", with an inner ring for content more directly linked to the subject, and an outer ring for more loose connections.

The video below shows how this works in practice.

In the "overview" of an article featured in a Reading Radar, readers are not just offered standard information such as the author of the piece, or where it originates from, but also the "duration" of the article.

This means then when content is added to a reading list on Reading Radar, it can calculate how long it would take you to consume the content in its entirety, which you can also do via the platform.

Reading Radars feature text, video, images, audio and visualisations, and a mixture of existing news and information from across the web, "journalistic editing of academic content" and new content said Jan Bierhoff, who has been working on the project under his consultancy Medialynx, and in partnership with deign agency Essense and publisher Reed Elsevier.

The overall aim is to make it easier for the public to get a balanced overview of the background to topical stories.

"It's not easy to have a full overview of media coverage which is dispersed over time and over various media," Bierhoff told "We collect that, we bring that together."

The internet contains "an enormous amount of information about virtually any subject or theme", he added, and Reading Radar hopes to come to the rescue of those who find themselves "drowning in information".

If an issue becomes important in terms of political importance, or economic relevance or just is in the very heart of a popular debate, we think it's fit for a Reading RadarJan Bierhoff, Medialynx
Bierhoff also hopes to pick up what he described as "a substantial drop in attention for science-based information" within the Dutch media, which he links to cuts in resource and staff.

"Although it becomes more important, journalistic coverage of a number of themes is dwindling," he said, adding that the platform will put a spotlight "on the complicated backgrounds of current affairs".

"So if an issue becomes important in terms of political importance, or economic relevance or just is in the very heart of a popular debate, we think it's fit for a Reading Radar."

The plan is for the product to launch in beta with a tablet app by the end of 2013, first offering "a number of radars on a given theme".

"In my view tablets are a much better reading environment for complicated background stories," Bierhoff told "You can consume them in a lean-back mode, flip back and forwards and easily navigate in a quiet environment."

The experience, he said, is therefore more closely aligned to that of consuming a news magazine, than a newspaper.

He added that it has not yet been decided whether in the long-term Reading Radar will be just a standalone product or will also be used by news outlets for its own content. Bierhoff added that they do plan to allow other media to republish radars.

  • Reading Radar is one of a number of IPI News Contest winners who will demo their products at a free evening event being run in partnership by, the Guardian, IPI and Google.

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