Apple is taking a fresh stab at content curation and aggregation with a native mobile app that it will release as part of iOS 9 this fall. The Apple News app will combine and curate articles from more than 50 publications at launch, and it is sure to create another rift between those who create online media, advertisers and the many companies that want to deliver it to online readers.
Apple has wanted to launch an app like News for years, according to Craig Federighi, the company's senior vice president of software engineering. It's something Apple tried and largely failed to achieve in the past. This latest move is a shift from the strategy Apple employed with Newsstand during the fall of 2011, about 18 months after the first iPad was released. As part of its last attempt to crack the world of news and information, Apple created a single folder for magazines and periodicals designed to drive paid subscriptions for specific publishers' content. News is a dedicated app that provides customized feeds of content based on users' interests and reading patterns.
"News is smart, so the more I read, the better it gets at showing me the stories I'm interested in," said Susan Prescott, Apple's vice president of product management, during her demonstration of the app at Apple's 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. Apple News users can discover more content sources and topics in the "Explore" tab or view a curated, and automatically updated, feed of articles in the "For you" section. Early publishing partners include Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg, according to Apple.
Apple, Google, social sites battle for aggregation domination
News will use its own article format that lets publishers such as enhance their stories with photo galleries, video, rich typography and infographics. The app also tracks more than a million topics, so users can be very specific about their interests. And as Apple's machine-learning algorithms get more details to analyze, the curation process should deliver accurate results.
The forthcoming app represents yet another shift in the publishing world, a world that's increasingly dominated by mobile consumption, but it could also give publishers access to hundreds of millions of new readers. Audiences of that scale are impossible to ignore. However, there's a potential pitfall for publishers: Companies that choose to play in Apple's sandbox could lose more control over audience data, advertisements, content distribution and branding.
The war to become the lead gatekeeper of news and information wages on, but the battlefield is wide open for the taking. Apple and Google are trying to expand their positions as the leading mobile OS providers while social networks, including Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn, play up their unique capabilities to deliver information to their audiences. Apple's initiative comes on the heels of Facebook's Instant Articles program, rolled out last month, which aims to deliver content from the company's publishing partners within Facebook users' news feeds.
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