Alright Newsle, you got me. The aggregator that tracks and delivers news on your personal connections just launched a beta feature to import email contacts, starting with Gmail. So far, the results are meaningful and surprising, from news about people I see everyday on Facebook to a college professor I haven’t spoke to in years.
When I started writing for PandoDaily, I told my entire network to send me its news. After giving Newsle access to my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Gmail, I will know if anyone betrays me (cue ominous music).
Newsle is somewhere between a Google Alert for all your contacts and a news aggregator. Using Facebook and LinkedIn data to determine a contact’s identity, and further enhanced by its ability to cross-reference results with email history, Newsle knows my Facebook friend Don Thorson is the same entrepreneur Don Thorson who gave VentureBeat the scoop about funding for his stealth startup Swipp. This happened before I started writing for PandoDaily, but still, I’m waiting for my scoop, Don.
“We were surprised by how many people have friends in the news. Most of our users have a friend in the news once a week,” says founder Jonah Varon who dropped out of Harvard and moved with his co-founder to San Francisco, publicly launching Newsle in February.
My first email contained nine articles, two of which were written by me, published as recently as two days to two months ago. More than half the stories were new to me, and I devoured them, clicking on the first and thinking, “Did Jay Adelson actually talk to Business Insider about Digg?” It turns out he did not. On Newsle’s website, I can see my contacts ranked by how often they appear in the news and monitor a longer, real-time news feed.
Blame it on the name or features like its feed of tech writers, but I thought Newsle was just another social news aggregator. I lumped it in the same category as News.me from Betaworks, now known as the bargain shopper who bought Digg. News.me sends me a daily email with the “Top 5″ stories shared by my Twitter and Facebook contacts, operating on the belief that the more a story is shared, the more relevant it becomes. After opening the first few emails, I stopped. My noisy and overpopulated Twitter account is probably partly to blame. Newsle only relies on social networks to identify contacts, not for its news results.
So how could Newsle go beyond a niche that seems most useful to newshounds or for professional networking? It appeals to our innate curiosity about one another, beyond the self-curation we attempt on social networks. I’ve already started imagining the goodies Newsle will deliver to my inbox –the high school prom queen getting arrested or a graduate school acquaintance writing a trashy novel — and for that reason I’m certain when Newsle’s email arrives, I will open it.