The Curious Case of Al Jazeera’s Absence From HTC Blinkfeed

TL/DR: Why is al Jazeera’s feed absent from HTC’s Blinkfeed? It’s a mystery.

After writing up my review of the HTC One (M8) the other day, I thought maybe I ought to give Blinkfeed a try.

For those of you who don’t have an HTC phone — and it’s a somewhat specialist taste if reports of declining market share are to believed — Blinkfeed is an HTC-curated/controlled news feed (now available to all Android users). It provides an elegant magazine-like interface made up of user-selected content from among the news sources provided by HTC, and also from one’s social media. Most of the major social media choices you would expect seem to be on the available list, but the provision of news sources is somewhat erratic. There is something from just about every part of the globe, but often not much; there are two wire services, and Huffington Post but no US newspapers. If the US choices are rather spotty in news, they are somewhat heavier in sports and entertainment and various other web-based frills. Many of the news feeds on offer seem rather heavy on gorgeous photos, particularly of landscapes and animals, which I think skews the content of the feed somewhat…although as my test is only a couple of days old it might also reflect that August is the silly season for many news media.

The good news is that Blinkfeed’s options include news from many regions in their home language, so I can get the French news is in French, which I like. And even though you get other languages by changing your “edition,” which isn’t totally intuitive, it’s possible to meld feeds from different languages, so I don’t have to have my US news in French just to get the French news in French.

The bad news is that Blinkfeed is a closed system: I can’t add an RSS feed of my choice, an option that would have made Blinkfeed actually useful.

But, at least, though I, there’s Al Jazeera. Given all the turmoil in the Middle East at present, I thought it would be useful part of my media diet. Except, at least for the last three days, there isn’t any Al Jazeera in my feed. And when I go to the al Jazeera button all it says is “NO CONTENT Pull down to refresh.” Swiping down just repeats the update/nothing-happens cycle.

A Google search got me nowhere. There are plenty of links in which HTC brags about all the content deals it has signed. (I’m guessing people pay HTC for the privilege of being in their sandbox, which is why it’s such an anemic little sandbox.) And even some about HTC adding al Jazeera. But there’s nothing I can find in which HTC says it has dropped al Jazeera.

So I called it in to HTC customer support. I’d had a very good experience with them the last time I called, and no good deed goes unpunished. The support guy I got was understandably skeptical at first. He had me remove everything else from my feed. He had me reboot the phone. No change. Finally he put me on hold for a long static-filled wait. When he came back he explained he’d “gone to the lab” and gotten one of their HTC One (M8) test models, and replicated my problem.

The good news: he now totally believed me.

The bad news: he didn’t have any better ideas than I did about what to do about it.

Apparently, there’s nothing on the HTC internal system about them dropping al Jazeera. No one on the floor at the help center had heard anything like that. So all he could suggest is that I call back tomorrow during regular business hours and ask to be escalated — apparently the escalation team doesn’t work late at night.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find out if this is a case of broken RSS (or whatever) feed, or a case of political censorship. Right now it’s just a bug report.

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7 Responses to The Curious Case of Al Jazeera’s Absence From HTC Blinkfeed

  1. Ravi says:

    Hmm… I just tried a Singaporean One E8 (the One M8’s plastic brother) and I was able to get al Jazeera working in Blinkfeed once I looked under the MEA edition. It’s possible the One E8 has a bugfix the One M8 doesn’t (the One M8 next to it in the store was dead, unfortunately so I couldn’t do the true apples-to-apples comparison), but… I have to say it looks like censorship to me.

  2. Yves Le Jan says:

    bonjour Michael

    Tech issue now resolved and the Al Jazeera feed is populated again in the US edition.
    The MEA feed has more articles because it’s the generic feed vs. World if you’d like to get more from this source.

    Also if you try in the browser on your M8 (note: Internet, not Chrome), you can add it to your BlinkFeed (although not the Highlights view).

    thanks again for flagging up the issue and hope you’ll continue to enjoy BlinkFeed 😉

    • This will sound silly perhaps, but I don’t have an app called “internet” on the M8 — so how do I get “Internet, not Chrome”?

      • Yves Le Jan says:

        ah… it might be labelled “Browser” in the US. It’s the blue earth icon which is the 3rd app shortcut at the bottom of the homescreen by default.

        • *Helas* First thing I did when I got the phone was customize that list of shortcuts at the bottom of the screen. If it was there, that icon is lone gone, and it’s not showing up in my app list under any name that I can see.

          PS How much does it cost to get a feed listed in blinkfeed?

  3. Yves Le Jan says:

    Could it be hiding in a folder (e.g. productivity)? You can toggle to alphabetical at the top of the all apps menu to list all the apps installed on the phone.

    Otherwise, partners get rewarded for the content they publish in BlinkFeed. Did you have a feed in mind? You can reach out for more details offline on the email used for this comment if you see it or DM me on Twitter.

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