Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Pulse News App for iPad Gets Social

Pulse, the visually engaging mobile news reader, is adding a social element today. To date, Pulse (for iPad, iPhone and Android) gave users an easily scannable and image-driven view of their favorite RSS feeds. Now, users will also be able to add their Facebook accounts and flip through material posted by their friends.

The social version of Pulse will be available only for iPad for now, and is to be released this afternoon at 3 pm PT.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Alphonso Labs, which makes Pulse, recently stopped charging for its apps and raised $800,000 in venture funding. CEO Akshay Kothari came up to San Francisco today and showed me the new iPad app.

The new Pulse for iPad gives users three feeds of Facebook information: Friends’ status updates, friends’ shared links and a historial look at the user’s own Facebook wall. In keeping with Pulse’s design, items are image driven and easily swipe-able, and expand into a second panel when users tap on them (see screenshots). Users can add comments or “Like” statuses and shared links as they would on Facebook, but this is more of an alternate way to consume content than a full-featured Facebook client.

As with other content feeds, Pulse caches the 25 most recent Facebook updates in each category, so a user who goes somewhere without Internet access could continue to read the content there.

As Alphonso grows from being some young folks with an interesting design approach into a real company, it is exploring closer relationships with publishers like the Huffington Post. “We don’t want to be a company that makes a news reader,” said Kothari. “We want to help people discover awesome content.”

Kothari added that with the influx of new users since Pulse went free two weeks ago, Alphonso is looking to improve content discovery by mining user data to show a “most-emailed” story list across all feeds.

He said his aim is to get away from the hierarchical structure of Web sites–where one must return to the homepage before moving on–and help people scan quickly through potential reading material. Ultimately, Kothari said, recommendations will be done through a balanced combination of machine and social factors.

Further reading: Earlier this year, Pulse was mentioned as an example app by Steve Jobs, then yanked from the App Store due to complaints about content usage by the New York Times. The app was quickly reinstated and Alphonso has an open dialogue with the Times about how best to send it new readers and subscribers, according to Kothari.

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