Politics underpins almost all aspects of our daily lives. Everything from the price of milk to the ongoing Greek financial crisis can have its causes and roots traced back to decisions made in various halls of power at some point in the past.
As such, it’s vitally important to stay abreast of the latest political news on a local, national, and international level. The events of the political world can have a huge impact on your personal life, whether that’s the amount of tax you need to pay on your property or the effect of the latest budget on your pension savings.
It means you need to make use of a reliable and robust political news aggregator – but how do you choose the best? It depends on what you want from it.
Here we look at some of the main criteria to consider, along with a few recommendations.
Even non-Americans now scoff at outlets like Fox News. The broadcaster’s infamy has spread far and wide, with events like the Paris “no-go zones” farce and the blurring out of breasts on a $115 million Picasso painting cementing their place amongst the most biased and untrustworthy “news” companies in the world.
Sadly, they are not alone. Whether it’s the Murdoch-controlled media empire in the UK, the state-controlled media in Russia, or great firewall of China – you are having your opinions and perceptions shaped by people with ulterior motives, whether you realize it or not.
In fact, it’s debatable whether any news site (or aggregator) is truly independent – ultimately they will always be at the whim of their proprietor. Nonetheless, trying to use a service that aggregates news from sources that are as independent as possible is vital for a level-headed global citizen.
After being launched in 2000, RealClearPolitics is now one of the oldest and most well-known aggregators on the web. It has long positioned itself as an independent political news outlet, and offers users a wide variety of sources in a large array of formats.
A few features make it a good choice – namely the sub-categorization of “hot” news in the panel on the left, and customizable newsletters. It also includes non-typical news items, such as rolling polls for the upcoming US elections and a congressional bill tracker.
Mobile is now king. We are increasingly getting our content from mobile devices, and the old adage that “there’s an app for that” has never been more true.
It’s easy to understand the platform’s relentless growth in popularity – we lead progressively busier lives, and fewer and fewer people have to time or the inclination to sit in front of their computer just to read the news, or to spend a large chunk of the day reading a newspaper from front to back.
Thankfully, the developers of some political news aggregators have embraced this new reality and now offer apps that specifically curate political news content.
Unfortunately, Politics Today is only available on iOS (for $0.99).
Its uniqueness comes in the form of smart filters, enabling you to only see the news (or opinions) that you’re interested in – for example, you could filter out all news about the Republican Party, the EU, or from the BBC.
The app also makes heavy use of Twitter links. In an age where Twitter is often ahead of the traditional news outlets on breaking stories, this is a very worthwhile feature.
Left or Right
Like it or not, most people’s views and opinions fall on either the left or the right of the political spectrum – albeit to varying degrees.
Although Aristotle said “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”, and we’d certainly caution against living in an online echo chamber, for lots of people nothing makes their blood boil quite like reading a provocative article from someone with the opposite beliefs.
Therefore, many people want to choose an aggregator based purely on their political beliefs.
Recommendations: Polurls (Moderate), PolitiPage (Right), Raw Story (Left)
The three are very different in their styles and layouts, but all aim to provide quality aggregated news from reputable producers that are based around their political persuasions.
Polurls has a clear and clear interface with multiple filters, Politipage congregates its news around the various publications that it uses, while Raw Story takes a slightly more tabloid-esque approach.
We want to customize everything. We’ve become so spoilt that if we can’t tweak a product or service to be exactly the way we want it to be, we quickly disengage and go looking for something else.
Nowhere is this more true than online. The amount of set up preferences on services like the best RSS readers is becoming dizzying – for example, Inoreader has 18 pages of options, 95 percent of which won’t be touched by an average user.
In reality, having a highly customizable news reader is important for a lot of users. The ability to just get news about your favorite sports team, celebrity, and hobby is a major selling point, saving you time and energy when compared with trawling through lots of links that you don’t care about.
Recommendations: Pulse, Google News
Pulse is owned by LinkedIn, but operates as an entirely separate standalone entity. It first came to prominence in 2010 when it shipped as a default app on several Android devices, and since then it has gone from strength the strength.
It is entirely customizable, meaning that users can pick and choose both the specific topics and the sources that they want to read.
Google News is similar in that it has endless sources and topics, some of which are curated by users and some of which use Google’s powerful algorithm. On the flipside, it occasionally lacks finesse – the lack of a human editor and its reliance on machines meaning results are sometimes too broad and not linked to the subject, especially on more niche topics.
If you dislike Google’s omnipresence, there are Google News alternatives you can consider.
Which Is The Best?
It’s very difficult to pick a clear winner, firstly because there are so many political news aggregators out there, and secondly because everyone wants something different from their aggregator of choice.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous MakeUseOf articles, I’m a big lover of everything Google, so stick with Google News. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong!
What do you look for in a news aggregator? Which one is the best-fit for your preferences? Let us know in the comments section below.