Google releases news reading app Currents

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LAST week, Google finally released for Android devices, iPad and iPhone its long-awaited mobile news reading application Google Currents.

The application, however, is still only available for devices in the US. The decision to allow only US users to test the application has sparked criticisms in some website comments sections. While previous Google products came out first as invitation-only beta programs, they offered everyone the same chances of getting into the testing pool.

Android users outside the US, however, can still install the application by downloading the installer from other sources. I got mine from the XDA Developers forum.

My first impression of the app was that it was visually appealing in that less-is-more kind of way that has become the trend nowadays. There has been a general movement toward simpler design in interfaces and Google Currents reflects that. It was also much more functional and easier to manage than some of the RSS and mobile readers that I am currently using.

I came to Google Currents from Feedly, Pulse, Google Reader for Android and the various mobile apps from top media companies like CNN, Huffington Post, Time, BBC News, and Financial Times. I also use news filing systems for later reading like Read It Later, Instapaper and my latest crush, Evernote and its Clearly extension for Chrome.

I’d like to think there is a method to the madness of my multiple news readers.

Google Reader is my main news reading app because it allows me to organize, via tags, things that I’ve read. All my news feeds are in Google Reader and I go through these with the intention of 1) getting informed about the latest updates on things I’m interested in and 2) tagging for reference and later reading articles that I feel I should check out again some other time.

Google Reader is currently the first and last application I open daily. I open it to wade in a torrent of news updates.

Pulse, meanwhile, allows me to browse updates from certain sites that I make a point to check regularly. Of all the news reading apps I use, Pulse is the most beautifully-designed. Steve Jobs, himself, praised the reading app, which was created by two Stanford University graduate students.

Pulse, however, limits the number of sites you could add into five panels of 12 sites each. That limit forces you to choose only the sites consistently turning out good articles. As a consequence, there is no frippery in my Pulse news feeds. But I love the occasional frippery.

Evernote and Clearly, meanwhile, are really useful for organizing articles and web sites that I found while browsing my PC and wanted to read later in bed on my tablet. I have started to try it as my main archive of articles and the only thing that worries me is reaching the storage limit of my free account. (Santa, I’ve been nice this year, give me a pro Evernote account.)

In three days of using Google Currents, however, I now see it as a possible main news reader for me. The biggest hurdle, however, is my reliance on Google Reader tags to organize my notes. Google Currents integrates with all your installed applications and sharing offers the option of doing so through Evernote. But I’m hesitant to move away from Google Reader in articles organization.

While Google Currents allows you to rearrange publications, the panel-based organization of Pulse allows you to categorize news feeds. Google Currents, however, provides something Pulse doesn’t: serendipitious news discovery through a tracker of trending stories in various categories.

But what’s even more exciting (at least for content producers) in last week’s announcement isn’t the availability of the app but the offering of a tool that simplifies the creation of editions or publications in Google Currents.

The tool, Google Currents producer, is so easy to use anyone can turn out an edition for the app using RSS feeds and various other media.

I tried it and was able to create editions for my blog and running site in less than a minute. I spent a few minutes more doing customizations and with a press of a button, my sites were quickly made available in the app. The website tool allows you to manually add content and even customize the design, even to the individual article.

I think the app has potential and, paired with Google’s cash cow, Google AdSense, independent publishers will have an easier option of going mobile without having to deal with challenging technical requirements of producing an app.

Several studies have already pointed out that people are reading more with the emergence of the tablet and e-readers. I think this poses huge opportunities for content producers who know how to take advantage of new media.

Google already provides the biggest cash flow for Website advertising of many websites. With Google Currents and the producer tool, the Web giant has the opportunity of making crucial inroads in mobile news publishing.

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