With re­vamped app, news to be at core of Ap­ple

The China Post - - LIFE - BY ROB LEVER

Ap­ple is div­ing deeper into the news busi­ness with a new ap­pli­ca­tion that could make the U.S. tech gi­ant a key in­dus­try player.

Ap­ple News, part of the up­com­ing iOS 9 op­er­at­ing sys­tem, aims to be the pri­mary news source for users of the iPhone and iPad — likely at the ex­pense of sources such as Face­book, Google and news apps such as Flip­board.

In a sur­pris­ing move, Ap­ple has un­veiled it will be hir­ing ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ists to man­age its news feeds — mark­ing a de­par­ture from the al­go­rith­mic process used by ri­vals.

“Ap­ple is ea­ger to have news cre­ated by hu­man be­ings and not al­go­rithms — it fits in with the brand state­ment Ap­ple has been mak­ing,” said Judd Slivka, a pro­fes­sor of mo­bile jour­nal­ism at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri.

“The ex­pec­ta­tion is they will put to­gether a smart team that works well broadly across news and spe­cific con­tent ar­eas.” Although Ap­ple has of­fered few specifics on its plans, the com­pany’s jobs list­ing page said it is “look­ing for pas­sion­ate, knowl­edge­able ed­i­tors to help iden­tify and de­liver the best in break­ing na­tional, global, and lo­cal news.”

The page said the ed­i­tors should have “great in­stincts for break­ing news, but be equally able to rec­og­nize orig­i­nal, com­pelling sto­ries un­likely to be iden­ti­fied by al­go­rithms.”

This marks a dis­tinc­tion from ri­vals such as Face­book, which is craft­ing for­mu­las that aim to de­liver ar­ti­cles users want based on their Web habits, de­mo­graph­ics and in­ter­ests.

Fed by Robots?

Although Ap­ple is likely to use some al­go­rithms to fil­ter sto­ries, the hir­ing of ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ists is a pos­i­tive step, said Dan Kennedy, a jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor at North­east­ern Univer­sity.

“A lot of peo­ple don’t want to be fed news that a ro­bot has de­cided in­ter­ests them,” Kennedy told AFP.

“Es­pe­cially if you don’t have any say how the ro­bot makes that de­ci­sion. The Face­book al­go­rithm is highly mys­te­ri­ous, and peo­ple are start­ing to re­sent that.”

Kennedy said it is “en­cour­ag­ing that this is mov­ing jour­nal­ism to the cen­ter of Ap­ple’s uni­verse.”

But he re­mains cau­tious about tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in­creas­ingly be­com­ing gate­keep­ers for news.

“I’m not crazy about the idea of shift­ing news to huge cor­po­ra­tions like Ap­ple and Face­book that have their own agen­das,” he said.

Ap­ple says its news app “fol­lows over a mil­lion top­ics and pulls rel­e­vant sto­ries based on your spe­cific in­ter­ests.”

Part­ner news or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clude Conde Nast mag­a­zines, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg, but Ap­ple will be open­ing to other pub­lish­ers and blog­gers.

Joshua Ben­ton of the Nieman Jour­nal­ism Lab said the app will be im­por­tant be­cause “though the awe­some power of de­fault, Ap­ple dis­tri­bu­tion puts it in an en­tirely other league. This app will be on hun­dreds of mil­lions of de­vices within 24 hours of its de­but.”

Ben­ton said it could help news or­ga­ni­za­tions strug­gling to raise ad rev­enues, with Ap­ple al­low­ing them to keep 100 per­cent of money from ads they sell and 70 per­cent from what Ap­ple’s iAd plat­form sells.

Fol­low­ing Ap­ple Play­book

Rob En­derle, a Sil­i­con Val­ley ana- lyst at En­derle Group, said Ap­ple is fol­low­ing a for­mula it has used in other ar­eas, aim­ing for tight con­trol of con­tent to as­sure qual­ity — and shut­ting po­ten­tial ri­vals out.

En­derle said Ap­ple prefers to have its own ap­pli­ca­tion on its de­vices to give iPhone and iPad users easy ac­cess with­out turn­ing to third par­ties such as Google or Face­book.

He said that when ru­mors sur­faced that Google was in­ter­ested in buy­ing Flip­board, this spurred Ap­ple to act.

“They didn’t want Google to own a news de­vice used by so many Ap­ple users,” En­derle said.

As a ma­jor media player, Ap­ple will need to deal with con­flicts of in­ter­est such as man­ag­ing news that is un­flat­ter­ing to the com­pany or which pro­motes ri­vals, an­a­lysts say.

Kennedy said that like other media own­ers, Ap­ple will re­al­ize “that it would be a public re­la­tions fi­asco if they did try to ma­nip­u­late the news in their fa­vor.”

En­derle said Ap­ple un­der­stands the need to keep its hands off the ed­i­to­rial process.

“If it’s a core app and peo­ple don’t like it, that would hurt the iPad,” he said.

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