yahoo news digest apple watch
Credit: Image courtesy of Yahoo.

Reading news online never leaves you with a sense of completion – there is always something else you can click on. When Yahoo launched its News Digest mobile app last year, it offered an alternative to the infinite web: morning and evening updates inspired by newspapers.

Now the Yahoo News Digest is on the Apple Watch with another old-school format reinvented for the digital age: a top-of-the-hour radio style news bulletin delivered to your wrist.

"I think everyone is still experimenting right now but for us it was important to employ control when notifying users with news," product manager Nick D'Aloisio told in an email.

"We did not want to overwhelm them with sporadic breaking news alerts or an overload of stories on a daily basis."

D'Aloisio launched a news-summarising app called Summly in 2012 when he was 17, which was later acquired by Yahoo. He then started work on the News Digest for smartphones, launching the app two years later.

He outlined the idea behind the Apple Watch version of the digest at FT Digital Media this week, explaining that other apps on the watch tend to bombard users with notifications, and having an hourly bulletin eliminates the need to send such alerts.

"A top-of-the-hour notification fits in with natural behaviour," he continued in the email, "since people tend to check their watch hourly, when they are between meetings or appointments."

"The temporal focus is emphasised with a countdown screen in the app that reminds the user when their next bulletin is ready."

Each Yahoo bulletin for the Apple Watch includes three screens: a two-sentence summary, a visual element which can be anything from an image to a map or a statistic, and a speed reading option.

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The Yahoo News Digest smartwatch app. Image courtesy of Yahoo

"As well as the look of the content we felt that, to make it onto the watch, content needs to be 'need to know'. We consciously decided to inform the user on one key story per hour, " he said.

But If a story breaks in-between updates, a 'breaking bulletin' will be pushed to the watch and replace the current digest. Once the hour is over, the bulletins disappear from the app.

"We want the content to feel lightweight and expendable, such that users do not feel the weight to check the bulletin every single hour.

"The content is important for its respective hour, but once that passes, the user shouldn't worry about feeling uninformed. Instead, they can check the next available digest on the phone to catch up."

While the News Digest apps on smartphones and watches work independently of each other, stories from the Apple Watch bulletins will be included in the mobile app. Watch bulletins will also only be sent on weekdays "to ensure they do not feel endless or infinite".

"Psychologically, users enjoy a sense of 'completion' when viewing or reading the news," he explained.

"That's something that was missing in other news apps and we were keenly aware of when designing News Digest for the phone. It's a concept that we've carried forward to the watch."

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