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Reverb: A unique personalized news tool for iOS

Personalization is the Holy Grail for news apps. Give the app an idea of what you want to hear about, and let it learn over time so that your news reading is always relevant.

Reverb (free) bills itself as a personalized news discovery app. You can get an overview of the latest news, and the app "tunes" itself using algorithms to learn what you like. Reverb displays an attractive graphical representation called a "word wall" showing what topics are hot, and you touch the topics to read more. The app then lets you dig deeper and add topics of interest, all of which are saved under a button called "My News".

Stories come from a variety of sources, including newspapers and TV and cable networks. Using the app is easy enough, but some of the choices of topics are downright bizarre. Things like "pottery" and "wedding photography" show up in general news, and I can't imagine why they are there. Reverb does learn from your choices, but it seems to cast a pretty wide net. Worse, you can't tell Reverb that you don't want any more news on a particular topic or from a specific source. Zite does both very well.

For my personal interests -- the "My News" feature -- the app did quite well, leading me to articles I would never have discovered from casual browsing. That wide net of Reverb easily delivers things of interest to me, like photography stories, even though photography articles generally aren't news.

The app allows you to add your Twitter and Facebook feeds for a summary of what your friends are sharing, and you can share directly from Reverb to your favorite social network. Reverb also allows you to send articles to people using messaging or email. The latest version of Reverb supports Pocket for offline reading.

Stories are nicely formatted, and you move from page to page by swiping. A back button takes you back a screen if necessary.

Reverb knows my location, but it failed for me in southern Arizona only showing a map of my location and no news. When I moved the map location to a larger city I did see some things pop up on the map, but the app should fetch the local material automatically.

Reverb is a very nice start in the rarified domain of personalized news apps. The user interface is attractive, and stories display in a consistent way. But there are some things that would make Reverb much better. First, it lacks a help feature. When you first run the app there are some explanatory screens, but they are not complete and can't be recalled at a later time. While Reverb is good at noting stories you want, it has no way to eliminate stories from the main news feed that you don't want. You can do this with topics in the "My News" feed, so it should be consistent and let you eliminate stories from all news feeds. Further, I'd like to see the feeds have an option to be mixed, so I don't have to go to multiple places to find news of interest.

The king of personalized news apps for my money (and it's free) is Zite. Although Zite has been purchased by Flipboard, over time the Zite technology will hopefully be folded into Flipboard. Reverb is a useful app, and if it grows it could fill the space left by Zite when it melds into Flipboard. In fact, many Reverb users say they were looking for a Zite alternative.

Reverb is worth a look if you are a news and information junkie. It requires iOS 7 or later, and it's a universal app.

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