News at hand: Fort Worth startup gives users content control

Mark Doyle and Gordon Rhodes


A basic version of Scruddle is free. A premium version with more features is $4 per month.

A toast to his new daughters turned into two reasons to celebrate for Mark Doyle and his friend Gordon Rhodes.

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In this ever-changing age of media, the two friends from Fort Worth have launched an iOS app designed to make it easier for people to find the news they are looking for.

Introducing Scruddle.

“We’re making it faster and easier for people to find the news they actually want to see, not that some algorithm has chosen for them,” said co-founder and developer Doyle. “It’s exciting to be able to give back some of that control to the people.”

In 2013, Doyle had stopped by Rhodes’ house on the way home after the birth of his twin daughters. The men poured glasses of whiskey and lit a couple of cigars.

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As they talked, Doyle told Rhodes of an internet startup called Scruddle that he had started in 2012. Rhodes realized his friend might be on to something and that Scruddle could indeed be a vehicle for both savvy internet users and everyday people wanting to streamline the way they consume news.

“I was intrigued about this Scruddle thing, but didn’t know what to think,” Rhodes says on the Scruddle blog. “After all, I’m not really a huge social media user, and I get my news from basically one favorite newspaper and one favorite TV network. I’m a simple man.

“But Mark convinced me the need was there, and I soon discovered the need was there even for me. It was cool – this idea that I would be able to curate my news feed only for the types of news I felt like reading at that moment.

“I also liked the idea of wading through the clutter, and then, if I wanted, sharing the gems I had found across my social media world with one elegant click. It just sounded simple.”

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It wasn’t long before Rhodes came onboard in 2013 and was named co-founder.

Simplicity is a key ingredient in Scruddle. With over 160 publications and 2,000 news feeds, as well as the ability to add other news outlets via RSS feeds, it is a hub for news resources. There is plenty of competition out there, from apps such as Zite, Pulse, Flipboard and Google’s own Google Current. But Scruddle simplifies how users view, find, organize, and share stories and headlines, by streaming it into a customizable, single inbox, according to the company.

Scruddle allows the user to choose from a wide selection of news outlets and aggregate all news vehicles into one app. Cutting through the clutter, it gives the user an easier way to find what he or she wants on the internet.

Doyle said the market strategy for Scruddle is two-fold.

First, target consumers of traditional news and headlines by using news-based interests and likes/follows to reach people on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and eventually certain news publications.

Second, target “sharers,” or people looking to become an authority on a topic and build a following, by sharing relevant stories from a variety of sources or by using the same digital media strategy, but with different messaging.

Doyle developed the Android version of the app, which was released in August. They employed Code Authority of Frisco to create an iOS version.

Doyle said about $180,000 has been raised to develop the app.

“We spent about $90,000 on the iOS app, after which I took over development,” he said.

Doyle said that while some may think apps are a “dime a dozen,” Scruddle is not in that broad category.

“At first glance, the concept of another news app, or one that aggregates/curates news feeds, does seem broad. However, I do think our primary target is fairly niche – people that desire more perspectives on news,” he said. “Yes, the majority of folks see what’s being curated for them on and by Facebook, then pop over to their preferred news site, and that’s it. But it takes that variety to get the true pulse of what’s happening in the world.

“What has to stand out is that we aren’t curating news like Apple News or Google News, or even Facebook. We present to the user a wide variety of news publishers and feeds, suggested based on what the user likes. They can take it or leave it, and we keep trying to suggest sources of news they might like, but we do not put news in front of the user that they haven’t explicitly chosen. Don’t like BuzzFeed or Huffington Post? Perfect. It won’t show up in your Inbox.”

Doyle said he originally envisioned Scruddle as a social media aggregator right after Google Plus came out. He believed it stood a real shot at the competition. However, a shifting market led to an even better plan, he said.

“Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn locked down their APIs [how developers get access to that information],” Doyle said. “We already recognized the importance of news, and seamlessly integrating news headlines and stories into the Scruddle inbox, so we pivoted toward making news our priority. That shift definitely changed our target and how we would market to that target.”

And while Scruddle is designed to make life easier for news searchers, it is also friendly to those who publish the news in the first place.

“We get the list of article titles and quick summary, and that’s what we display to the users. But if they share an article, it refers back to the publisher, not Scruddle,” Doyle said. If someone reads an article, Scruddle takes them to that publisher’s site, even if there’s a paywall.

“I’d love to work with local publishers to get them integrated into Scruddle.”