The Washington Post Unveils Visual News Product

A fast way to get caught up on the top stories

Ever wish it was easier to get up to speed on the biggest stories of the day when you're on the go? The Washington Post has that need in mind with Topicly, a new reading feature for its site and mobile platforms debuting today.

Topicly is basically a visual table of contents of the site's biggest news topics of the day. When you click on one of the topics, which are arranged checkerboard-fashion, you’re taken to a collection of all the content from the Post's website on that topic, updated every 15 minutes. 

Cory Haik, executive producer and senior editor of digital news at the Post, said she got the idea for Topicly while she was reading news on her phone. “Newspapers all say, 'This is what’s most important,'” she said. “So I had the idea to create a visually, topic-driven publication and let the publishing volume drive the priority of those topics. It’s sort of like skimming our whole site.”

Topicly is powered by proprietary Post technology and for the most part, algorithm-driven. Over time, social media mentions from across the Web and by Post journalists will be incorporated into the platform.

Clicking on any of the pieces of content will take readers back to the Washington Post site, so the newspaper will still be able to count them as online visits (and as paying readers, if they bump up against the Post’s new paywall in the process). The platform is responsive to all devices, but was particularly designed with the mobile user in mind, given more than 30 percent of the Post's weekday traffic (and over 40 percent of its weekend traffic) comes via mobile devices.

Topicly has its own ad format, and, as with many new ad products coming out of the Washington Post and other publishers these days, this one is native to the editorial environment. The unit lets advertisers appear in the same format as the news topics and use the same layout to share stories, images and social content. The official launch sponsor is Land Rover.

The Post has done a good bit of tinkering lately on the edit side. Haik’s team of developers and designers also was the force behind @MentionMachine, a real-time app that tracked social mentions of candidates in the 2012 election and Truth Teller, a news app that aims to fact-check political speeches in real time.

Such efforts could be just the sort of thing the Post’s new owner Jeff Bezos is looking for; the Amazon chief told the Post he bought the paper so he could help it “experiment.” Haik wouldn’t say if Bezos has provided any feedback about Topicly in particular but said that “The leadership team is in communication with Bezos, and we’ve got nothing but good replies on the things we’re working on.”