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Apple Updates Its News App to Make It More Like a ... Newspaper

There's also an update for publishers, too. Will that make you use it?

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Apple is tweaking its News app, with hopes of making the personalized newsreader more appealing for both users and publishers.

Apple’s update for its iOS app, which begins rolling out today, has two components. Only one of them will be visible to regular users: Apple’s editors will curate a list of “top stories” they’ll display for all of the apps’ users, at least a couple of times a day.

That’s a change in philosophy from this fall’s launch, when the app was supposed to highlight stories based on each of its users’ tastes and reading behaviors.

That’s still going to happen throughout the day, but in the morning and in the afternoon, Apple will assemble a handful of stories it thinks all of its users would want to see. You know — like a newspaper.


The other change matters only to the publishers that are letting Apple run their content, in full, on their app: Apple says it is turning on an integration with ComScore, the Web traffic counter, so publishers can get advertiser credit for the views their content generates.

The fact that ComScore hasn’t been set up until now has been one of the complaints publishers have had with Apple News. Another is that the app’s performance has generally been underwhelming, both in terms of presentation and the audience numbers it has generated so far.

Apple won’t comment about those criticisms. But the fact that it’s not only hand-selecting some stories for is entire audience, but also limiting those picks to stories published by mainstream publishers, like Bloomberg, CNN and the New York Times, suggests that it’s acknowledging that the app is a work in progress.

One thing you don’t hear publishers complaining about are the deal terms Apple is offering for their content. Publishers can keep 100 percent of the advertising revenue they generate for their own content, and Apple will give publishers 70 percent of revenue for ads it sells on its own.

This kind of “off platform” publishing arrangement would have created a lot of nervous teeth-gnashing among publishers a year ago, but now, in a Facebook Instant Articles/Snapchat Discover world, it’s par for the course. The issue for publishers isn’t whether to publish on other platforms — it’s which ones they want to invest energy in. Apple still needs to make its case.

(Vox Media, which owns this site, is an Apple News partner.)

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