During the last Apple Developers’ World Conference the company introduced News, a new app that will be added to the iOS 9 home screen to concentrate in one place the main news sources that we follow on the topics that interest us most: technology, sports, fashion, business… Okay, that’s at least the official version and no one misses it’s also another torpedo in Google’s waterline, the ads.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The third iOS 9 beta has allowed us to get our hands on News to test it thoroughly, and this is what we thought.
The first time we opened the app we received a warm welcome that reveals a very similar approach to Apple Music: suggestions based on a combination of automatic algorithms and manual work done by a team of editors. The message is that the more we use the app, the more personalized your suggestions will be.
However, before we are even given the option to choose what we are interested in, News informs us that this beta version subscribes by default to six partner media that have adopted the Apple News Format. As we’ll see later, News only needs an RSS feed to work, but publishers who opt for the Apple News format will be able to offer us articles with a premium design, custom fonts, galleries, audio, video and animations, all automatically optimized to the iOS device we use.
The next step also bears the Apple Music label: choose at least three media outlets and keep marking your favorites from a list that pops up on the fly. Easy. Interestingly it seems that there will be the possibility to receive by email what we assume will be daily or weekly compilations with the most recommended articles, but at the moment there is no way to configure which account you will do it to.
From here we find the app as and as we will wait the next few times we use it, with six main sections:
For you, with suggestions of the articles that may interest us the most.
Favorites, with the means to which we are subscribed. It serves both to review the articles in between, and to edit our subscriptions by eliminating those that no longer interest us. At the moment it is not possible to sort them as you want, but they will surely implement some solution before their final release.
Explore, with more suggestions for specific media and general topics. The section is organized so that we first find two blocks with nine suggestions of the most varied, followed by a list of categories to narrow the search scope further.
Searching, perhaps somewhat redundant, fulfills a task similar to that of the Explore section, only here we have to write directly the name of what we are looking for, whether it’s a particular medium, something much more general like «Spain», or just the opposite, things that interest us like «adventure sports» or «music festivals».
Finally, Saved offers us the possibility to quickly locate items that we had previously indicated, as well as consult (and delete if we want) our history.
Articles added by RSS vs Apple News Format
For media added via RSS, the app offers the feed content either full or partial, followed by a «Read the original story» link that leads us to the article on the editor’s website. On the other hand, the media to which Apple has offered early access to the Apple News format to participate in this beta phase (The New York Times, CNN, ESPN, The Atlantic, Slate, and soon, Wired), have an image-rich design, with custom galleries, videos, animations and typography.
The result is interesting, although until the apple company doesn’t open it to everyone and we can take a good look at it to see how far it moves away from the standard, it will be hard to anticipate the degree of adoption they can aspire to achieve. For now, we need to settle for Apple’s words, who say it’s an easy-to-connect format with existing content managers.
After another part of Google’s cake
The Apple News format will offer publishers a number of tools to measure the degree of user satisfaction with their content, and will also open up the possibility to monetize it through iAd with the usual 70/30 cast for the publisher and the apple respectively.
This is already a clear aggression to Google’s main source of revenue, reducing the need to go through the search engine and dodging AdSense ads, but Cupertino’s company plan becomes even more evident when we put together a few more pieces of the puzzle such as iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan content blockers.
The message to publishers is: get 100% of the revenue generated by the ads you sell and 70% when iAd sells them for you; but between the lines it reads like: users are going to block your ads, but here’s a way to at least keep earning 70% with ours.