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Apple has announced an app called News, which is designed to aggregate various news sources into one easy-to-read interface.
Much like the popular app Flipboard, News integrates a variety of sources into a single feed. It automatically builds personalized recommendations based on what you read.
At first glance News doesn't provide much that's actually new. Other news aggregation apps are commonplace and popular; Flipboard, for example, has attracted 65 million users since its launch five years ago. Apple seems to be focusing on the app's recommendations engine, as well as user privacy, to set News apart from the pack.
On stage at the World Wide Developers' Conference today Susan Prescott, Apple's VP of product management, demonstrated a few of the app's features. As you use the app it takes note of your preferences to build personalized recommendations into a feed called For You, and supposedly keeps track of more than a million topics. You can search for articles and bookmark stories to read later.
The app is designed for ease of reading, and preserves a lot of the look of the original publications' designs. Apple touts its new Apple News Format as a way to allow publishers to create custom layouts, including multi-touch gestures, video and "rich interactions such as parallax and animation." There's also a Photo Mosiacs feature that re-arranges photo galleries and lets you zoom in with a tap.
"We think this offers the best mobile viewing experience ever," said Prescott.
As with other introductions at WWDC, Apple is stressing the privacy aspect of News. "Unlike just about any other news aggregation service we're aware of on the planet, News is designed from the ground up focused on your privacy," said Craig Federghi, senior vice president of Software Engineering on stage. He said that individual data is not shared with third parties, and that your reading history is not shared with other Apple services.
"We already have nearly 20 publishers representing more than 50 titles joining us, including Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, in Apple's press release. The company says 30 New York Times articles per day will be delivered free to News users, a big jump from the 10 per month available for free on the Times' web site.
According to a Recode report prior to WWDC predicting the announcement of News, the new app will replace Newsstand because partners complained that it buried their content. Publishers will reportedly keep all of the advertising they sell within the News app, and Apple will continue to get a 30 percent cut of revenue from subscriptions sold through the publisher's own apps.
News aggregation online continues to evolve beyond the traditional RSS reader. Facebook earlier this month announced its Instant Articles plan to publish content from nine media outlets directly to Facebook's iPhone app. Twitter has long been an engine for sharing news and has helped drive the site's popularity. Snapchat is also trying to position itself as a news-gathering engine.
All of that interest in news has helped Flipboard attract suitors, according to several reports. Twitter, Yahoo, and Google are all reportedly eyeing a possible Flipboard acquisition. A report last month suggested Twitter was willing to pay as much as $1 billion for Flipboard.
CNET's latest review of Flipboard for iOS gave the app an 8.3 overall, citing its tons of customization options, beautiful design and easy-to-read feel. Those highlights sound a lot like Apple's introduction of News. It remains to be seen how many iOS users will ditch their current favorite news app for one created by Apple.
News rolls out with iOS 9 this fall starting in the US, UK and Australia.