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Apple introduces news reading app in challenge to Flipboard

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(Bloomberg Business) — Apple announced on Monday a news hub that draws content from such major media outlets as ESPN, the New York Times, Wired, and the Atlantic. The app provides a clean, consistent look and feel for articles coming from various news outlets. Articles can also integrate graphics, photos, and video. It is called, simply, News. 

“News is smart, so the more I read, the better it gets at showing me stories I’m interested in,” says Susan Prescott of Apple. The app allows readers to select favorites, which are either specific publications or specific topics. 

The app resembles Flipboard, a popular app that pulls content from users’ social media accounts and presents it as a sleek digital publication of its own, allowing people to read the links they’d see on Twitter in a kind of digital magazine. For years there has been speculation that Apple or Twitter would buy Flipboard. By building its own version, Apple is creating a way for people to start associating their news-reading routine with their phones, rather than with applications that are easily accessed through other smartphone platforms. 

Flipboard Chief Executive Officer Mike McCue says the startup’s app is different from Apple’s because of its focus on social networks and sharing with friends. He says he isn’t worried about the competition. “We’ve had Google ship a supposed Flipboard killer; we’ve had Facebook do that with Facebook Paper; we’ve seen Yahoo! do that, and now Apple,” McCue said in an interview during Apple’s WWDC event. “We have a close partnership with Apple, and we’ve known about this for a while. We’ve talked about a few potential things we can do together in the future.” McCue declined to comment on any acquisition talks that may have occurred.

Publishers will keep 100 percent of the advertising revenue they sell inside News; the news was first reported by Recode. In addition, Apple will help sell advertising within the app, taking a 30 percent cut of that revenue. The company also takes its standard 30 percent cut from subscriptions sold through the outlets’ own apps. Bloomberg is one of the media partners participating in the app. 

Tom Standage, deputy editor at the Economist, says that the publication may run some advertising in the app, but is not expecting to make any significant money from Apple News. “We don’t see ad revenue as the main way of doing this. We hope it will encourage people to try our app and visit our website,” he says. The publication is choosing some articles to show through the app, aiming for Apple users who don’t regularly read the magazine. “That is our biggest challenge: reaching the people out there who ought to be reading the Economist, but think it’s not for them,” says Standage. While the magazine generally requires a subscription to read articles beyond a few freebies a month, the articles in Apple News will be entirely free. 

As it introduces the new home for news on iPhones and iPads, Apple is getting rid of its last shot to make one. The company will discontinue Newsstand, a news-reading app it launched in 2012, according to Recode. While Newssstand was designed to keep news apps from being lost in the sea of other apps on people’s phones, some publishers felt it meant their work was buried even deeper.