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Apple revamps its news app and unveils News Publisher platform

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Apple took the covers off its new News app as part of the new iOS 9 for iPhones and iPads during its annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). The News app, with a Filpboard-style interface, will be replacing the Newsstand application on Apple devices.

Apple says that it has roped in 20 publishers on board for its application and includes The New York Times, Conde Nast, ESPN, CNN, Bloomberg, Time Inc, and Hearst with 50 more titles joining. News will be supported in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia when it launches.

The app will have to contend with Google Play’s Newsstand for iOS and also Flipboard itself.  Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told VentureBeat in February that the service has about 50 million monthly active users and its users curate a total of 15 million individual magazines.

News Publisher

News publisher

Apple also is developing a new format to push content to its news application via a News Publisher platform with crafted layouts, custom typography, rich photo galleries, videos, and animations. “Author once and News will optimize your content for all iOS devices. You’ll also be able to connect your existing content management systems to News, and get access to a rich suite of tools for measuring user engagement,” Apple said on its website.

Note, News Publisher can only support stories in English currently and says other languages will be supported later.

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For now, publishers can push their content on the News app via RSS feeds, but it will be adding more publishing tools later. Publishers can sign up for the service here. Apple also has a list of rules for preparing content which you can find here.

Monetization: On the News app, Apple lets publishers keep 100% of the revenue from the ads they sell in their articles or channel, or 70% when iAd (Apple’s advertising platform) sells ads for you. Publishers can also earn revenue from ads sold by iAd that appear in Apple-curated topic feeds, such as Fashion or Technology.

Apple does not mention about publisher paywalls within the app, but Nieman Labs reports that the New York Times will be offering about 30 free articles daily.

Facebook’s Instant articles

Apple’s revamped News app comes at a time when there is significant activity for news publishing online. Facebook announced the Instant Articles feature for mobile devices which loads stories faster without leaving the Facebook application. For now, Facebook loads news articles in its Android app in-app by default. Users can change that setting by going into “app settings” and asking Facebook to load news articles in a mobile browser by default. In iOS, interestingly, users do not have this option in their app settings. It seems that all links that a user clicks on, in the app, open only in-app and after opening the link, the user gets an option to open the article in a mobile browser.

Instant Articles will also have features like tilt-to-pan photos, video autoplay (not a good move, in our opinion, especially for India, with limited bandwidth issues), embedded audio captions, in-photo zoom and interactive maps. Users will also be able to comment on parts of an article in-line. It will make use of automated content syndication using standards like HTML and RSS. The same content will also be accessible through the publishers’ websites.

Twitter’s focus on news 

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Microblogging platform Twitter is also expressing greater interest in news and it was reported last month that it was in talks to buy aggregator Flipboard for $1 billion. In April, Twitter launched a new free product called Curator that allows media publishers to search, filter and curate relevant tweets and Vine videos and publish it in real-time to their readers, across web, mobile and TV. Twitter Curator is currently in invite-only mode, and media organisations can request access here.

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