3 Ways to Get the News from a Chatbot on Your iPhone

News publishers are exploring ways to deliver information via chatbots

Get your news by chatbots on messaging apps
Get your news on-the-go delivered by a chatbot. Westend61/Getty Images

Get your news from a chatbot.

You may have heard the buzz: The use of messaging applications is gaining in popularity, and there’s about to be a revolution in terms of how we use them. While these applications — also known as instant messengers, chat applications, and messaging apps — have been used in the past to enable communication between human beings, they are now being used to distribute information and services.

Publishers of news and other types of content are starting to experiment with how to reach their audience through messaging apps. One way that they are delivering content is by creating chatbots that allow users to interact via a chat interface, enabling them to request the type of news that they want to access. Re/Code, the popular website which covers technology and media, has a great explanation of what a chatbot is:

“A bot is software that is designed to automate the kinds of tasks you would usually do on your own, like making a dinner reservation, adding an appointment to your calendar or fetching and displaying information. The increasingly common form of bots, chatbots, simulate conversation. They often live inside messaging apps — or are at least designed to look that way — and it should feel like you’re chatting back and forth as you would with a human.” — Kurt Wagner, Re/Code 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made headlines when he announced that “bots are the new apps.” There’s a laundry list of reasons why people are in agreement with Nadella — namely that bots are easier to use than apps (they don't require download or installation); they are extremely flexible and can be used to perform a wide range of functions; and in many cases, they are housed within applications that are already being used by large numbers of people, offering publishers the opportunity to tap into a new audience.

Several news organizations are now publishing content via chatbot through messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger and Line.

Here are three ways that you can get your news from a chatbot:

Facebook Messenger

Facebook made headlines when it announced that it was opening its Messaging Platform for third-party chatbots, and explained how they could be used within Messenger: 

“Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.” — David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products, Facebook

News organizations are starting to jump on the bandwagon by launching chatbots on the platform. 

Here’s how to get news on Facebook Messenger:

  1. Download and open Facebook Messenger on your iPhone. It’s worth taking a moment to make sure that you have the latest version of the app — the news chatbots are new so you'll want to make sure you’re able to access the latest features
  2. From any tab within the app, tap into the search box at the top. Doing so will result in a list of people whom you can message, followed by a set of icons under the heading "Bots"
  3. So far, the options for news are CNN and The Wall Street Journal. Tapping the icon for either publication will result in some options being displayed: 
    1. When you tap on the icon for CNN, you are prompted to select from “Top stories,” “Stories for you,” or “Ask CNN.” The last option, "Ask CNN,"  enables you to tell CNN exactly what you’re looking for. The bot provides instructions, suggesting that you use one to two words, and broad category titles such as “politics” or “space” to define what you are looking for
    2. When you tap on the icon for the Wall Street Journal, you’re presented with the options to access “Top News,” “Markets,” or “Help.” The "Help" option results in a menu of many useful features, including a list of "Command Options" that can be used to perform common searches — for instance, to access news about a specific company, like Apple, type in “News $AAPL”
  1. Use the arrow at the top left of the screen to return to the front page, where you can access other bots — like Shop Spring to shop for men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories, or 1-800-Flowers  

Supported Devices: iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Line

Line was launched as a messaging application to help people stay connected after Japan's Tōhoku earthquake in 2011. It quickly gained a loyal following throughout Asia, and today boasts more than 200 million active users worldwide. Many top-name media brands have a presence on the app, including Buzzfeed, NBC News, Mashable, and The Economist.

Here's how to get news on Line:

  1. Download and open the Line application on your iPhone
  2. Click on the "More" menu — the three dots located at the bottom right of the app 
  3. Click on "Official Accounts." You'll see a list of icons from publishers, celebrities, and media brands. Tap on one that interests you, and then tap "Add." Follow the prompts to receive information.
  4. Tap on the arrow on the top left of the app to return to the list of icons. Repeat to subscribe to more publications. 
  5. The range of experiences varies from publisher to publisher — in some cases, you'll be prompted to interact in order to receive content, in other cases, there may be scheduled delivery of information with limited on demand options. Some providers, like Mashable, provide fun diversions in the meantime — you may be prompted to choose a cute, fun, or crafty gift while you wait for the next news delivery.

Supported Devices: iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Quartz

Quartz is a news publisher that focuses on creating “bracingly creative and intelligent journalism with a broad worldview, built primarily for the devices closest at hand: tablets and mobile phones.” The company has taken a different approach to using chatbots: rather than creating one to live inside someone else's messaging app, they built their own standalone application which allows users to interact exclusively with Quartz content via a chat interface. 

Here's how to get news on Quartz:

  1. Download and open the Quartz application on your iPhone
  2. Follow the prompts to get started — preformatted responses such as "Like this?" " Yes, sounds good," and "No, thanks," are some of the options that you'll see
  3. You’ll be prompted to give Quartz permission to send you notifications. You can select “OK” if you’d like to receive notices, or “Don’t Allow” if you’d prefer not to. Notifications can also be managed on the settings page, which is accessible by swiping left at any time within the app. It’s worth taking a look here — you can select from a variety of options regarding the frequency in which you receive news updates, as well as opt into a fun service called Markets Haiku, a daily poem about the state of the financial markets. I’d recommend selecting “OK” to receive all notifications when you are presented with the option, you can then fine-tune the settings once you get a feel for what you'd like to receive
  4. Swipe right on the settings screen to return to the main chat screen, where you can follow the prompts to read and navigate between topics

Supported Devices: iOS 9.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

The use of messaging applications is becoming more popular — it's been reported that there are now more people using messaging apps than social media.  The trend of using chatbots to interact with brands, publishers, and service providers has already taken off in China, where messaging app WeChat contains bots that are used for everything from reading the news, to booking a doctor’s appointment, to searching for a book at the library. You can expect to see similar options coming to your favorite messaging app in the U.S. as organizations develop expertise in producing chatbots and consumers become accustomed to interacting with them.

Follow the exciting developments here on About.com — I’ll keep you up on the latest news and share how-tos that will enable you to take advantage of revolutionary new tools and features as they emerge.