Japan’s bookmark-driven news app ‘Presso’ launches, but fails to impress



Last week I mentioned that Japanese internet company Hatena would be launching a mobile news app based around its Hatena Bookmarks service. Yesterday that app, dubbed Presso, was made available on the App Store, so I decided to take it for a spin.

For those not familiar with Hatena Bookmarks, or ‘Hatebu’, the service began way back in 2005, offering the same sort of social bookmarking as Delicious (2003) but for the Japanese market. As I mentioned last week, the company has built a useful ‘hot entry’ portal based on most frequently bookmarked media from users, and this new mobile app brings that same valuable content on to mobile.

What’s useful about Presso is that the available news categories are rather robust and customizable. So for example, if I’m interested in news about ‘mobile apps’, ‘business’, and ‘cameras and photography’, I can simply select those to create a very personalized news service for myself. There are more diverse topics included as well, such as ‘Government/Economics’, ‘Manga/Anima’ [1], ‘Lifehacks’, ‘Travel’, and ‘Blogs/Journals’ (see below). You can even add your own tags on your own, which is perhaps the most useful function.


As I expected, Hatena’s new app puts more focus on photos as most modern news applications do. And I while I really like the way you can swipe right or left to go to the next news category, Presso occasionally feels slow when loading those categories. I had hoped that Presso would apply its the same minimalist reformatting on article pages that we find in apps like Instapaper and Pocket, but it doesn’t – which I think is a mistake. Similarly, I think they’ve wasted an opportunity in the video category by not pulling in videos for consumption within Presso.

One interesting feature is the optional four push notification times (8am, 12pm, 6pm, and 11pm, as you can see above), which are ostensibly intended to coincide with the times that Japanese users read news most. But overall I think Presso doesn’t bring anything to the news app space that we haven’t seen before. However, because you can bookmark articles to Hatena Bookmarks as you read them, that will feed much needed activity back into its bookmarks service, perhaps winning back many Hatena users that the company may have lost as smartphone popularity has grown.

So in this sense, I think Hatena has built this app more with its own interests in mind instead of those of its users. This might have been an exciting app two or three years ago, but in the age of startup news challengers like Gunosy and SmartNews here in Japan, I think local consumers expect a little more.

Despite the downslide of the leading social bookmarking service Delicious, online bookmarking has enjoyed something of a resurgence recently through the very geeky Pinboard. That is essentially a clone of what Delicious was when it was good, now serving a rather niche market by charging an initial one-time sign-up fee of $10, and optional caching service for $25 per year.

It would be interesting to see Hatena explore that kind of business model, but I have a feeling they never will. Nevertheless, for hardcore Hatebu fans out there, Presso is a welcome present.

  1. Perhaps a good resource for Japanese learners interested in manga.  ↩