Like a lot of people who are always connected, knowing what is happening in the world at this moment is a priority for me. Sure, I can load up an RSS news feed and pull down some published news stories, but what about the breaking stuff, the things happening right now? The internet is a powerfully fast tool for delivering information. Having a steady stream of breaking bulletins is the logical end of that technology, and Breaking News is that service.
Breaking News (www.breakingnews.com) is owned by NBC News Digital, though it operates as a separate entity. What makes it unique though is it’s not just a stream of “stuff” coming in that you have to make sense of. Nor do you have to configure anything. Instead, there are a team editors who curate, fact check and maintain the feed, making sure only scrutinized content gets through.
From the site:
“Everything is still vetted by our team: the fastest, most accurate, and most neutral team of breaking news professionals in the world. Our editors in New York, London and Seattle discover the news as soon as it happens, wherever it happens. Look for our "editors on duty" at the top of the site or app to see who's bringing you the news.”
It kind of reminds of the simplicity of Drudge Report, but without the bias or a heavy focus on US politics, which can be a turn off for some. Check out their promo video above, which echoes the Howard Beale character from the 1976 movie ‘Network’. The best line from their satire laden promo video?
“Today, news is everywhere. It’s coming at you from all sides, your TV, your computing machine, your telephone. Real news…all mixed up with a picture of a cat wearing a necktie like a grown man.”
There’s no commentary, just the headlines with links to the story. That’s if there is a story. Often, the news is so fresh, it’s just a headline, a Tweet or something off the AP Wire. That’s the fun of Breaking News; you feel like you’re watching things happen, live.
You can mute topics that you have no interest in, Share via email, Twitter, or SMS and add topics to your own area to track specific issues.
The Breaking News service has apps on just about every platform, but we’re concerned with Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Luckily, the app is on both platforms, and they’re my go-to apps for the latest bulletins. When I use them, especially on Windows 8, I feel like this is what technology in the information age was meant to do.
The Windows Phone app works on all versions of the OS, including 7.x, and it has a wide tile with push notifications. Don’t worry, you only get a push alert if it’s something really dramatic that has major implications. You won’t get an alert for each headline, which would be annoying. If I had to guess, I’d say you only get a couple of Toast notifications a week, if that.
The app itself is very minimalist. It’s just a giant list of, well, breaking news. Tapping on the story will give you the full headline, date and URL to the source. Sliding to the right, and you get a related section with similar tags for the same topic. The Share button is at the bottom. It’s a no frills app, but that’s kind of the point—just give me the headlines.
Snapped headlines? Yes, please...
On Windows 8, the app also features small, medium or wide Tile choices. Unfortunately, the app has not yet been updated for 8.1 yet, but you can still snap the app to the side to keep a running view of the headlines (see screenshot above). And that’s why I really like this app and service: when split on Windows 8 I can continue to surf the web, write or edit a photo while those headlines stream in.
Like the phone app, you also get notifications for urgent news with the Modern app. Sure, Bing News does this too but from my experience, each and every time Breaking News comes minutes before Bing does. That’s kind of a big deal.
My only complaint with these apps is they have not been updated to take advantage of new features. The Windows Phone Breaking News app could do something with the Lock Screen for notifications, headlines (detailed status area), images or even counts. Likewise, it's not optimized for 1080P display devices like the Lumia Icon or Lumia 1520, so you get black bars at the top. Lame. I get that companies are strapped for resources, and Windows 8 and Windows Phone don’t exactly dictate a large audience, but I’m hoping they refresh the apps sometime soon.
And in case you’re wondering why you should use this instead of Bing News, well, you missed the point. Breaking News is a different beast, stripped down, urgent and topical. So this isn’t an either/or with Bing News and Breaking News, but rather I use them together. And if you’re a news junky, then you’ll do the same. Just load both of them up and check out the headlines, you'll quickly see that Breaking News has very different content, with little overlap. One isn't better than the other, they're just different tools.
Breaking News is free on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. You can find the links below. Let us know if you’ve tried them and what you think.