Case study: The development of the Summly mobile news app

By The Drum Team | Staff Writer



Summly article

February 14, 2014 | 4 min read

This case study details the strategy behind the Summly mobile news app created by Nick D’Aloisio and Somo. The project was awarded best 'product/service launch’ at last year's MOMAs (Marketing on Mobile Awards) organised by The Drum. Here, we publish Somo’s entry report. All figures are accurate as of April 2013.

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Executive summaryThe first of its kind, the Summly app redefines news for mobile. It generates news summaries from hundreds of sources using algorithms and Artificial Intelligence. Its user interface makes use of, innovative gestures and animations, not to mention producing great summaries which make for easy and concise news reading.Somo helped 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio bring to life his vision of revolutionising the way people consume news on mobile. An elegant and intuitive iPhone app – ‘Summly’ – presents news content in a simple and concise way, automatically generating concise summaries that are easy for the user to digest.Summly immediately shot to number one in the Apple App Store news category following its release. It was selected by Apple as part of their “Best of 2012’ hall of fame for being inventive, surprising and a “cutting edge app that delights users with new forms of gestures and groundbreaking ways of interacting with content.”BackgroundNick came up with the idea of Summly while studying for his GCSE’s. He was frustrated by the way web content was difficult to consume on mobile devices and so developed a tech summarisation prototype to enable users to preview content in a better way.With backing from an impressive array of tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts, he created Summly and joined forces with Somo in 2012 to build the first product using the very latest in summarization technology – the Summly mobile news app.Given that over 50 per cent of smartphone owners use their mobile for news (Pew Research), and that mobile usage is best suited to ‘snacking’ on chunks of information, Nick was confident he could improve the mobile news reading experience for everyone.
StrategyThe first of its kind, Summly’s algorithm instantly analyses text and summarises the most relevant pieces of news, providing the user with beautiful and concise summaries of the article.The user interface is state-of-the-art with no buttons and a minimalist approach. Intuitive and seamless, pressing anywhere on a summary reveals the ‘Summflower’ tool for sharing links and saving favourites for offline viewing. When the user swipes down on the screen, this reveals the full news article; swiping up shows the news category tiles, and double-tapping delivers a longer, more detailed news summary.Somo supported the iOS development of the app. Key app features:
  • Four hundred and 800-character summaries of news articles that allow for quick browsing
  • Summarisation of hundreds of news sources
  • Customised news by topics, keywords, and news sources of interest
  • Users can see summaries from news articles in Twitter streams
  • Users can share summaries with friends through social channels, SMS, and email
  • Innovative design gestures make sharing articles and playing with the app fun
ResultsSummly shot to number one in the Apple Appstore news category immediately after launching. Within four weeks it had over 500,000 users, which far surpassed all expectations, and was five times above the target.Summly has reached number one in the news category in 28 countries, including the US and UK. It was featured as the Apple ‘Editor’s choice app of the week” in 48 countries. It has a user rating of four-and-a-half stars (out of five) in the App Store.App users read over 30 million summaries in the app’s first four weeks, saving each user 21 minutes, which is equivalent to 28 years’-worth of time.The Summflower tool has been used 825,000 times, which is enough to cover 10 football pitches with pictures of Summflowers.Summly was bought by Yahoo for $30m and removed from the App Store in March 2013. Since the submission of this case study for the MOMAs, Yahoo has re-launched Summly as Yahoo News Digest. All figures are accurate as of April 2013.The 2014 MOMAs, which rewards effective mobile marketing campaigns and strategies, is now open for entry with a deadline of 28 February. All information on Awards registration and entry can be found on the Awards website.

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Somo is a leading digital product agency, delivering digital ambitions at pace and scale for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Audi, HSBC, Vanguard, Vodafone, Virgin Media, and many more.

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