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How a news junkie uses the iPad

I’m a news junkie. I love remaining informed about U.S. and world news, technology news, entertainment news, you name it. I don’t subscribe to a single newspaper, though, and I don’t watch the news on television. All of my news comes from the Internet, and the vast majority of that news, I consume on my iPad.

The iPad isn’t quite as light as a news magazine, but it’s still pretty portable—and it’s always more current. With Safari alone, the iPad could be a great news consumption tool. Coupled with apps, it satisfies my news addiction like nothing else can.

I start my morning news consumption by catching up on my RSS subscriptions. If you’re still not on the RSS bandwagon, it’s time—instead of surfing to dozens of your favorite news sources each day, you subscribe to them. Then you just use a single newsreader app—I like Reeder— ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) to catch up on the latest headlines from all of those sites.

Now RSS has existed for years, and I remain a NetNewsWire devotee on the Mac. But the subscription approach feels particularly well-suited to the iPad’s form factor. There’s a visceral difference between reading long-form news on a computer screen and reading it on the iPad, and I quite like the holding—and flicking through—the news with my hands.

Reeder is a particularly brilliant newsreader; swiping through many hundreds of articles is pleasant and painless. I can drive through Reeder on my iPad with just one hand, quickly diving deeper into stories that interest me, and skimming through other, less enticing headlines with ease. And because the app integrates seamlessly with services like Readability (to pull in the full text of articles that show only summaries) and Instapaper (to save the really long pieces for reading later), it suits my needs perfectly.

Generally, once I’ve imbibed from Reeder’s morning news fire hose, I turn to Twitter. True, sometimes Twitter “news” consists of breaking headlines of the “I’m having scrambled eggs for breakfast” variety, but it’s also a great window into breaking news and stories that I may have missed. I use the official Twitter iPad app ( Macworld rated 5 out of 5 mice ), but there are many excellent options like Twitterrific ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) and Osfoora HD ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ). I follow some of the biggest names in news that interests me: Besides @macworld, that includes accounts like @BreakingNews, @CNNbrk, and a couple entertainment news-related accounts, too.

I even follow Twitter feeds from news sources whose RSS feeds I already subscribe to. It’s easy to miss the occasional headline with either approach; doubling up affords me extra protection from missing a story that interests me.

For a while, after feeding my kids breakfast, I would then turn to The Daily ( Macworld rated 3 out of 5 mice ), News Corp’s iPad newspaper. But I found the overall reading experience suboptimal, and the content a bit stale after catching up on my morning headlines elsewhere. The Daily does offer a smart mix of text and video content. But the magazine-like approach makes it too hard to efficiently read only the content I’m interested in; swiping through pages of stories I don’t care about slows me down too much.

Instead of The Daily, then, I rely on apps that are far less flashy, but far more informative.

The first is Fluent News ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ). It’s an app that aggregates news headlines from a variety of top-tier sources—MSNBC, ABC News, the Washington Post, and so on—and presents them in a tablet-friendly scrolling list. Since the app breaks news down by category (Top News, Entertainment, Business), it’s easy to browse through the headlines of most interest to you quickly—and with a single finger. That makes it easier to browse stories while I eat or hold my infant son.

I’m also a fan of CNN’s official iPad app ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ). Although its default view is a bit flashy for my taste, the more-traditional headline view provides a great way to navigate through the latest news. Again, a key for me is the ability to dive right into stories I care about, and skip the ones I don’t; Like Fluent News, CNN’s app makes that quite doable. The CNN app is also packed with video, in case that tickles your news consumption fancy; you can even watch live streaming video from the network.

Both the CNN and Fluent News apps can send push notifications of breaking news. CNN’s arrive very quickly, but the Fluent News alerts come hours after stories break, so I’ve disabled them.

Rounding out the News folder on my iPad are news apps from The New York Times, Reuters, and USA Today. None of those are daily reads for me, but each can come in handy if I want another take on specific stories.

In short, an RSS reader, a Twitter client, and a couple news apps are all I need to remain informed about the news. I no longer subscribe to any news magazines or newspapers, because my iPad always gets the stories first. It's possible my iPad newsreading habits will change a bit once Apple formally releases iOS 5. Among its many other features, the next iteration of Apple's mobile OS includes a few features geared toward iPad newsreaders. The most prominent of those is Newsstand, which will behave a bit like a super folder; it automatically downloads the latest issues of your iOS subscriptions, and displays the current covers for each on an iBooks-style shelf. Also new in iOS 5 will be Safari's Reading List, which works a bit like Instapaper, only with a far more minimal set of features. When you surf to articles that you'd like to read later, you'll tap to add them to your Reading List. Safari will save the title and URL of those pages—as transient, syncable bookmarks—so that you can revisit them later.

I know I have fellow news junkies out there in the Macworld audience. How do you keep tabs on news that interests you? Sound off in the comments below to break the news about the best iPad apps for breaking news.

Lex Friedman is a staff writer at Macworld.

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