Readness isn’t the “Pandora for the news” … yet

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In April I wrote about the strategies that news sites could steal from popular music services such as Last.fm and Pandora. I haven’t been the only one to make the connection between music and news, and yet we still haven’t seen many developers take a stab at the potential for creating recommendations based on content.

Readness, however, is trying to fill the void. The Chrome extension, already with over 1000 users, ties into your Facebook account and keeps track of the stories that you read and tries to recommend other stories you like. Head on over to The Next Web for a detailed look at how Readness works or watch the video below for a short overview:

"Our mission is to become the largest news agency that doesn't actually produce any content," says Peter Clark one of the two people behind Readness. Clark describes himself as CEO and part designer and programmer. Lee Mallabone is responsible for most of the programming.

The extension is still in its infancy and is missing some key features, but it is showing potential. 

Why it will succeed

Game elements –Readness tells me I have achieved the rank of Intern News Reporter on my profile page, something I can change by reading more stories.

Clark says he is toying with idea of "quests" and other game-like features. For example readers could get a "Investigate the BP oil spill" badge by reading five stories about the Gulf. The service could also be a more natural media partnership than Foursquare for offering discounts to content behind a paywall.

The recommendation engine – Unlike other recommendation services (I’m looking at you Netflix) Readness is pretty good at guessing at the content I would enjoy. For example, yesterday I read a large amount of stories on ESPN.com about the World Cup. I also spent a lot of time on TechCrunch catching up on my startup news. Readness was able to combine my love of all things tech and my interest ing the World Cup by suggesting Gizmodo’s detailed piece on technology’s lack of influence on the event

Facebook integration – One of the driving forces behind the success of Last.fm is the ability to connect with friends. Readness only lets users log in using Facebook, opening up the potential for sharing stories.

Privacy settings – Readness doesn’t give my reading data to any third party and allows me to delete stories I’d rather not notify the world that I’ve read.

Why it won’t

Whitelist – For now, Readness only “scrobbles” stories from a pre-selected list of sources. This keep quality high for the product’s early stages, but for Readness to scale, it needs to record everything I read.

Clark says he eventually plans on allowing users to submit sites and is searching for a smarter approach that crowdsources the problem.

RSS support – Most of my news reading isn’t done in Google Chrome, it's done in Google Reader. According the support forums, Readness plans on adding Reader support. If they incorporate the extension with Google Reader’s “share” and “like” system then the company could have a killer app on its hands. As Clark pointed out in our conversation, he could also use Google Reader to help validate content sources to add to the whitelist.

Clark says he plans on working directly with publisher to help improve the service and add functionality like a widget.

"We're very keen to being friends with publishers," he says. To get your site on the service's whitelist, email Clark at peter@broadersheet.com. In the meantime, I encourage you keep an eye on Readness.

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