Apple’s News App In iOS 9 To Take On Flipboard & Facebook
Apple's new News app, which will launch with the iOS update this fall, could give publishers a big audience boost.
Wasn’t it just last month that Facebook was conceded control of news publishing on the Internet?
Perhaps, we should have checked in with Apple first. Monday at Apple’s annual developers conference in San Francisco, the company introduced a new news app that could prove to be healthy competition for Facebook’s Instant Article format and give publishers another significant source of audience. Called simply “News,” the app will be part of Apple’s iOS 9 release this fall, immediately pushing publishers’ content onto hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads.
Apple said the reading experience will be magazine-like “with the immediacy and customization of digital media.” The app will deliver stories based on user preferences and reading habits; people will pick news sources and topics they are interested in and the app will serve a mix of content in a “For You” package. It’s similar to Flipboard without the social media customization. News will be available for people in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Articles can be displayed in a generic format or if publishers’ choose they can produce them in Apple News Format, a custom content wrapper that will display a publication’s branding and include extra interactive bells and whistles. Here’s how Apple described the new format:
With the Apple News Format, you’ll be able to create beautifully crafted layouts with custom typography, rich photo galleries, videos, and animations — all optimized for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch…You can author once and News will optimize your content for all iOS devices, so your readers will have a great experience no matter which device they use. It’s easy to connect to existing content management systems, and you get access to a rich suite of tools to measure user engagement with your content.
That sounds quite a bit like Instant Articles, Facebook’s mobile-optimized reading experience launched with great fanfare in May (although in a not-so-thinly-veiled shot at Facebook, Apple noted that the experience will be privacy protected because it won’t share what people are reading with third parties).
A big part of Facebook’s pitch for Instant Articles is that they load much faster than links to news publication’s sites. That, no doubt, will also be an advantage in Apple’s news app. Another similarity: Apple’s monetization terms are the same as Facebook’s. The company will give publishers 100% of the revenue for ads they sell and 70% for ads sold by Apple’s iAd.
Apple said it has nearly 20 publishers representing more than 50 titles — including Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg — already signed up. Interestingly, that’s significantly more than the nine Facebook has for Instant Articles. Also interesting, publishers have seemingly gone quiet on Instant Articles; there have apparently been no new stories published since launch day.
[Update: The Guardian published a story in the Instant Article format today. And Nieman Lab, citing a source familiar with Facebook’s plans, reported that in the next several weeks publishers will start publishing in the format daily, but as is usual in Facebook experiments only a portion of users will see them.]
Apple plans to give more publishers — large and small — access to the News app, which has an RSS backbone. Publishers interested in the program can sign up here.
Apple also announced the end of Newsstand, the app that created a special iOS landing zone for news and magazine apps. Launched in 2011, Newsstand gave apps privileges like better background updates and more frequently updated icon images. It never caught on with publishers, as Joshua Benton noted in a Nieman Lab post:
But that special home turned quickly into a ghetto, where news apps went to die. The tradeoff — a few extra features in exchange for no longer having an icon on your best users’ home screen — just wasn’t good enough, particularly as many of those features became available to all apps. And worst of all, Apple provided no way for a Newsstand app to be converted into a regular old app — which meant that a lot of news organizations were locked inside that little icon against their will.