The Strategist

Apple to Put a Stopper to the Online Media Freedom

06/29/2015 - 17:00

The Apple gadgets came up with an application for reading news, with a straightforward name News. This is not just an aggregator - news stories from a variety of publishers and partner companies are selected by hand and typeset in a magazine style.

A tool Apple News Format is used for the News, supporting digital publications and enabling publishers, such as Condé Nast, ESPN and The New York Times, to create beautiful templates for editorial iOS users using their own design, image galleries, audio and video, as well as interactive animations.

The idea, of course, is not very fresh - for a long time there has been RSS-aggregators that collect news from specified sources and fairly successful applications like Flipboard, whose representatives note that they are not particularly worried about competition with the new service.

But for publishers and editors, the emergence of such an application is a serious reason to think about that more and more control over the distribution of content comes in the hands of technology companies.

It is known that in the era of social networks, users often get their news through Facebook and Twitter, following links on interesting or important materials. The user then proceeds directly to the site and read the text of the publication.

News app does not work that way. The text material is available directly in the application and the user does not go to the source. One may wonder about the copyright - how The New York Times or CNN allowed to place text to other resources? It’s simply - they became Apple partners.

Such major publishers as the New York Times, Daily Mail, Economist, Time, BuzzFeed, ESPN, Vox Media, Conde Nast, Hearts, and some others, a total of 50 pieces have already joined Apple News. Most likely, then, with the growing popularity of the service, other less popular will be connected as well. According to representatives of several publishing houses, they can get new readers, who previously paid no attention to them, through News. They do not seem very afraid of income reduction.

A similar step was taken by Facebook, when the network offered several major media outlets, including the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, publishing the full news pages on the social network.

By this step, Zuckerberg actually offers the media to give up their own traffic. In response, Facebook offers to share the advertising revenue with the publishers. Charging for advertising space on media sites, especially such large and advertising to Facebook, of course, may vary. In newspapers and portals, the price tag is higher but one can get more visits from social networks. Thus, Facebook may take the quantity.

There are two main options: either to sell their own advertising media attached to the news, and take all the proceeds or give Facebook the right to sell advertising and give it 30% of revenue. Also, social network partners may gather information about users reading notes and watch videos. At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg’s company will not help them, but offer to use their own tools for data collection.

Facebook explains this by the intention to simplify the consumption of content on the Internet. Now, the jump on the link in the social networks and downloading articles in the browser takes about eight seconds, which, according to Facebook, way too long, especially for mobile devices. Questionable motivation. Simply believe that the social network wants to win over quality content producers in the face of the media, as well as to keep the audience, periodically leaving their pages for the publications on sites.

Journalists note that some publishers, including The New York Times, use the business model of paid subscription, thus posting content to Facebook could lead to a decrease in the number of passages to the website edition. The issue is also important for the image of the media.  Site comers have become an indicator of the popularity of publications, and those, who will jumble the content with the pile of media information on Facebook, risk to lose individuality in the information flow.

As for Apple, all the publishers will receive 100% of the proceeds from selling their own advertising, and 70% of revenues sold with the help of the service Apple iAd. It is encouraging that concerns about the death of the independent press were premature.

Another thing is that the future users will definitely go less to the sites of publishers. Why do I need to visit the site, for example, of CNN, if all of the most important CNN articles are available in Facebook or Apple apps?

Publishers and media researchers fear that due to the current huge user base, Facebook, Apple and Google can win the initiative in their favor. The future of the media, with the active content consumption paradigm shift in favor of technology companies, does not look particularly rosy - newspapers and online media will become an appendage of the smartphone app, simple content generator for the main players - Apple, which owns the platform, without which the publishers cannot exist.

Of course, neither Apple, nor Facebook aim to create problems for publishers. They just want their applications to increase the attractiveness and success of their business. Media workers must have been calmed by the terms of cooperation, when advertising revenues from the content publication in apps completely or almost completely go to media. But who knows – what if the company subsequently changes its policy?

It should be noted separately that Apple is negotiating with media companies. According to BusinessInsider citing BBC, Apple sent out letters to publishers, where it was proposed to become a partner service by signing up to the agreement. No negotiations - it was necessary to agree to the terms, or refuse. The third option is not given. In other words – most likely, Apple invited to agree on its terms rather than held talks on how to resolve the content publication in the app.

At the same time, according to the conditions, only publisher is responsible in case of any legal claims associated with the published content.

Applications built tehnogiants also raised issues related to the ethics and standards of journalism. If Apple chooses to publish news topics, that means that the company and nobody else decides what to be published. And it already smells like censorship.

The news selection for News to be done by people - the company recently announced the hiring of journalists and editors. So we cannot shuffle the reasons for the selection on the engine.

Researchers grimly joke that from consumer’s point of view, the name of the project speaks for itself. Apple News – precisely what Apple considers as news. And those who are addicted to the consumption of content through the lens of Apple, will receive a cutout, that may be radically different from what is presented on the websites of the media. Most likely, this is going to happen - it is known that Apple Think Different.