One Ring to Rule Them All?

Now Apple Wants to be Your Newspaper Too

At first glance, the new Apple News curator app introduced at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference sounds like an unalloyed positive from a public relations and media relations perspective. As envisioned, a story placement in, for example, the New York Times or Glamour or on CNN will have the potential to be exposed to a vast additional audience.

According to Apple’s announcement, the all-new News app collects all the stories you want to read in a curated newsfeed that “combines the visually rich layout of a magazine with the immediacy and customization of digital media.” Readers can see the publisher channels and the topics they’re following and discover new content. The more you use it, the more personalized the News app becomes.

Nearly 20 publishers representing more than 50 titles have signed up, including Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg. While these partners will be in a preferred position, any publisher will be able to make stories available for the app’s feeds.

Sounds great, right? But the long-term impact of Apple News is less clear.

While participating publishers will keep 100 percent of the money they make by selling ads attached to their articles on News, they are also ceding some of their role as publisher. As Advertising Age headlined its story, “Apple wants to be your DJ, Wallet and Newspaper.”

Traditional media organizations have long chafed at the way news aggregators like Google profit from advertising based on content produced by others at great expense. But at least news aggregators drive readers to the media websites. Now Apple aspires to be the uber-newspaper.

Like Facebook’s Instant Articles, Apple News is designed to make the news-link obsolete, serving up articles 10 times faster. If you have the perfect customized newsfeed, you will probably spend less time visiting individual media news sites and opening their e-newsletters. That trend certainly won’t be good for publishers’ bottom lines.

While the news announcement generated plenty of media anxiety at the Washington Post and CNN Money, other voices like WIRED point that “despite its smart features and appealing aesthetic, Apple may have an uphill battle driving users to another standalone news app,” not to mention competing with Twitter and Facebook. Macworld was even more skeptical, believing that News is “doomed to fall by the wayside” like other “push” news services going back to the 1990s that “take choice out of readers’ hands.”

Those of us in media relations have a vested interest in preserving more media choices and strong media brands. Let’s hope Apple News becomes a positive amplifier for publishers, where readers can discover new sources and compelling content— and not “the one ring to rule them all.”

 

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