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‘Apple News as a product is living in the past,’ according to Flipboard’s CEO

Mike McCue thinks a walled garden is the wrong approach for publishers in 2018.

Flipboard CEO Mike McCue at the 2018 Code Media conference
Flipboard CEO Mike McCue at the 2018 Code Media conference
Asa Mathat
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

For eight years, Flipboard co-founder and CEO Mike McCue has been building a news curation app that organizes articles into a format more conducive to mobile devices — and now reaches 100 million readers a month.

Then along comes Apple in 2015 with a competitive product, Apple News, that has at least 70 million monthly users and is now drawing strong interest from big publishers like HuffPost.

“When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re competing with Apple, that’s a pretty big deal,” McCue said in response to a question about the competitive risk of facing off against Apple, during an onstage interview at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon.

They’re “a partner and a competitor at the same time,” he added.

But then McCue dropped the diplomacy to poke holes in a product that is indeed a risk to Flipboard’s future existence.

“Apple News as a product is living in the past,” McCue said in the interview with Recode Editor in Chief Dan Frommer. There’s “no social” sharing capability, “no curation happening — it’s algorithmic,” and it’s “another format that publishers have to adopt.”

“We’re not trying to create a closed ecosystem ... and that’s a big deal for publishers,” he added.

In the fall, Ad Age reported that Apple was running a test that would allow some publishers to sell ads in Apple News — giving them a shot at making money from their own content that’s shown inside the smartphone giant’s app.

But the Apple News format still means that readers view all articles directly in the app, instead of being directed to the publisher’s original website like Flipboard does.

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