Apple reckons an app which pulls multiple news sources into one place could be the way we all stay up to date in future.
Old-fashioned news stands – the metal kiosks on street corners stuffed with magazines and newspapers in different shapes, sizes and colours – were a riot of information.
They were messy and diverse, Viz on sale next to the Economist next to Vogue, and you can still find them about here and there.
News stands were a good way of distributing physical news in the 20th century.
Digital news stands looked like they might be a good way of distributing digital news in the 21st.
The web browser was perhaps the most comprehensive version: a neutral window onto which you could view any publication in the world.
In 2011, Apple launched the Newsstand app. It actually looked like the real thing, with wooden shelves and differently shaped, auto-updating magazine covers, and no one really used it.
The smartphone is “the defining device for digital news with a disruptive impact on consumption, formats, and business models”, according to a report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
Apple’s Newsstand copied an old model, rather than invent a new one.
Apps were for a while seen as the saviour of publishers, but they proved remarkably unpopular. The average number of news apps on an iPhone? Just 1.52, according to that Reuters report.
Now, though, the Cupertino-based company is offering something new, with the launch of Apple News.
Open it up, and you’ll get a stream of stories, which you can personalise by following topics or preferred news organisations.
Silicon Valley technology companies are starting to tidy up the news business, replacing disorganised shelves of entire titles with selected, pared-down stories.
Facebook has Instant Articles, Twitter recently launched Moments and Google is now offering Accelerated Mobile Pages to publishers, which speeds up mobile web pages by stripping out cumbersome elements like pop ups.
On the start-up side, Nuzzel bundles “news from your friends” into one place. They’re all – in their own way – new takes on a technology from the turn of the millennium, the RSS reader.
The news feed, not the news stand, is emerging as the dominant model.
Instead of a smorgasbord of different styles and layouts, a homogenised stream. All the articles look the same; behind the scenes, the messy business of your own preferences and your social networks is now where they differ.
For technology companies, it’s another way of keeping their users’ attention, and so selling adverts or smartphones, and another front in their total war with each other.
For news organisations, it means disruption – and an opportunity – perhaps as big as the web itself, given the ubiquity of smartphones. Two billion people will have one by the end of 2016, according to one estimate.
The news business is getting tidier, leaner and more powerful, pumped up by Silicon Valley.
That may be good news for newspapers, magazines and broadcasters, but we might miss the cheerful free-for-all of the news stand too.
Source: SKY NEWS