With the iPad, and subsequent tablets, came a new enthusiasm for aggregation tools for both media and social content - and a new opportunity for more visual ways of representing data.
Pulse and Flipboard attracted some serious attention at launch, reincarnating text RSS feeds into something more magazine-like - more visual, more delightful and less of a chore.
Rather, it's a about a more leisurely and pleasant reading experience - and consequently of great interest to the media industry. The New York Times thought the Pulse reading experience was compelling enough that it banned it from using its feeds at one point, though later reinstated it.
As a power RSS user (and a 'feed zero' compulsive) I'm not convinced that these are the most efficient way to deal with a few hundred must-read feeds. Taptu want to convince me otherwise. Until now a mobile search specialist, and the firm behind the Wapedia Wikipedia app, the My Taptu app launching today for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android.
My Taptu presents RSS feeds in a similar way, ambitiously but fairly effectively breaking stories down into browse-able squares with enough text and image to illustrate each of them. Add feeds by choosing from editorially curated lists including celebrity, tech and politics - of which Taptu have channelled 5,000 specialist feeds into 200 lists under the app's 'StreamStore'. There's also a bookmarking feature so you can browse headlines offline and read full stories later.
Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Taptu's senior director of product and engineering, says Taptu is not looking to extend the app to the iPad, so contests that there's any competition with Pulse or Flipboard. It's about creating that experience on mobile, he says.
"A typical mobile user might have 30 or 40 apps on their phone, and would start the day checking Facebook, then Twitter and then the BBC," said Papamiltiadis. "That kind of app hopping is what we are trying to solve by aggregating all that content."
Taptu, based in Cambridge and with a team of 30, appears to be treading carefully when it comes to relationships with media companies, being quick to point out that linking through to a story within the app only serves up the first paragraph - users need to click through to the home site for the full story. "We want to make sure the media gets the right attention, making it as sexy as possible to go through to the website. That's why we are sticking with our search principles and using only part of the story [in the app]. It's a teaser."
Though ads within publishers' feeds show up within the My Taptu app, Papamiltiadis says it does run minimal ads itself but is waiting to see how the app performs before committing to banner, in-stream ads or anything else.
My Taptu is light and about as well designed as that 3.5" screen will allow. The customisation is much more comprehensive than Pulse or Flipboard and it's an attractive proposition, so for most consumers it will be worth a try.
But back to the power RSS user issue. I follow 80-or-so feeds and read every headline from the last 24 hours on all of those. I use Byline on iPhone (not perfect - very crashy and quite slow) because it integrates with Google Reader - I don't want to have to set up all those feeds again every time I try a new RSS reader. But I also need to share and star stories in the reader I use.
There's no Google Reader integration with My Taptu at all at the moment. Maybe that will change, but I think there's still a good deal of work to be done in bridging the gap between visual and interesting RSS readers and heavy-duty tools capable of efficiently serving up several hundred headlines.
• Update: Taptu say they are working on an iPad version, but wanted to concentrate on mobile initially as that's their background, but also to discourage comparisons with Pulse, etc...