Summly ap delivers the (short-version of the) news

British genius boy Nick D’Aloisio is at it again.

He launched the second and improved version of Summly, a mobile app that generates bite-sized summaries of news stories that fit neatly on your phone screen. No scrolling, no tapping, no chasing down links to media websites. Just the news, or as much that can fit in 350-500 words.

The app, which was released Thursday for the iPhone, pulls in news articles from hundreds of online sources and uses an algorithm to extract key words and phrases to build a coherent summary.  D’Aloisio said Summly gives readers more content than a Tweet, but doesn’t overwhelm them with pages of text.

“They get everything they need from Summly,” he said. “We’ve really found the perfect balance.”

Nick D’Aloisio

This is D’Aloisio’s second go-around with Summly. The 2011 version was hardly a thing of beauty, but it caught investors’ attention. D’Aloisio secured about $250,000 from celebrity investors like actor Ashton Kutcher and Zynga CEO Mark Pincus. Summly now has seven employees and just landed a deal with News Corp to use content from The Wall Street Journal and Times of London.

D’Aloisio’s youth is as much the allure as the app itself. He was just 15 when he released the first version, and on Thursday, he celebrated his 17th birthday (although he said that celebration took a backseat to the launch).

Summly is seen by some as a tool to help news consumers navigate the frenetic news cycle. Some say it’s a satisfying alternative to the quick-hit headlines from Twitter and any number of news feeds, but it won’t slow you down like, say … a news story.

“It’s a whole new medium of content,” D’Aloisio said.

Others might argue it piles onto the noise of the 24-hour news cycle, adding another layer of not-quite-complete content. In the rat race of breaking news, readers are losing content and understanding, which has prompted more media and journalism schools to focus on explainer journalism.

And, even D’Alosilio would agree, Summly is not a wholesale replacement for news stories.

Whatever Summly’s future, D’Aloisio is just getting started. He’s got years ahead of him to improve the app, create a new app or do something completely different. He has two years of high school left, and then it’s onto college –Oxford, he hopes – to study philosophy and politics.

Oh, and he may fit in a computer science class or two. 

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (237 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.