Commentary

'Knewz' Looks Better On Mobile, Which Is All That Matters

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. this week started testing a service to put headlines from hundreds of news websites on one screen — and the early results look much better on a smartphone. As readers consume more media on mobile devices, that's all that matters.

The company, whose newspaper holdings include The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, introduced Knewz to take on Google and Facebook. The Silicon Valley giants have become key gatekeepers of the internet, affecting how billions of people worldwide get their news.

The idea behind Knewz is to give readers another place to discover online news, while giving publishers more data about those audiences to bolster their sales and marketing efforts with advertisers.

Knewz's desktop website shows a jarring mix of headlines in varying font sizes that are more forbidding than inviting. Perhaps it's the garish yellow-and-black color scheme — resembling the tape police put around crime scenes. Indeed, the site even has a cops-and-courts section titled "Crime Scene."

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While the colors may give the site a sense of urgency, they also make even the most sober news feel like it's tabloid clickbait. A few minutes of looking through the desktop version had me yearning for a monochromatic site like The Drudge Report, the bare-bones news aggregator with catchy headlines linked to other news sites.

Knewz's format looks much better in its mobile app, consisting of a swipe-able infinite feed that resembles social-media apps like Facebook. The color scheme is less harsh on a smaller smartphone screen. The app also collects stories into different sections, such as "politics" and "business," listed across the top of the screen.

However, readers will have to be really motivated to tap on such generalized tabs.

In the past, I've expressed doubts about how much business news sites can win back from companies like Google and Facebook. Still, I'm in favor of any service that helps to support independent journalism and gives publishers a better chance to monetize their content. If Knewz can do that, I applaud it.

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