Google sign on office

Is Google Really Removing EU Publishers From Search?

In March 2019 a European Parliament vote dictated that, for the first time, publishers will have the opportunity to negotiate with major technology platforms such as Google for use of their content at a fair price. For digital publishers, the two most significant articles in the directive are Article 11 and Article 17 (formerly known as Article 13). The former states that search engines and news aggregation platforms must pay to use third-party content, while the latter makes platform owners responsible for any content posted without a copyright license. 

When first announced, Christian van Thillo, chairman of the European Publishers Council (EPC) claimed the directive “modernises copyright without stifling digital innovation. As press publishers, we would like to thank Europe’s regulators for adopting this important directive that acknowledges the value of the press to society and the need for fair remuneration for the commercial re-use of our intellectual property”.

Google’s response has publishers concerned. France is the first EU country to progress this directive into national legislation, from October 24th. However, as a result, it has become the first nation to fall victim to the directive’s loopholes. Google has refused to pay French publishers for links and has removed snippets and thumbnail images for publishers displaying content in France unless they have specified they wish to have this content shown in search results.

How could this impact publishers?

The intention of the legislation is to improve the rights and revenues of small to medium-size authors, content creators and publishers. But, the response of Google aims to circumvent this - by ‘opting in’ to show snippets and thumbnails, a publisher agrees not to require payment from Google.

After selecting to allow snippets and thumbnails the following message is shown, requiring confirmation.

This property will no longer be treated as a European press publication within the meaning of Directive (EU) 2019/790 on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market. To the extent you have rights in this property under current or future laws implementing Article 15 of the Directive, you consent to the display of preview content with no further compensation to you in Google Search, Discover, YouTube, and other search products offered by Google in the European Union and the European Economic Area, and you confirm you have the authority necessary to consent on behalf of the property. You can re-add your property to the list of European press publications at any time through this checkbox. Changes may take a day to take effect.

Here’s how Google articulated their decision:

“At the moment, when we display news results, we show a headline, which links directly to the relevant news site. For some results, we also show you a short preview of the article, such as a few lines of text (also known as a “snippet”) or a small “thumbnail” image. Together, these headlines and previews can help you decide whether a result is relevant to your search, and whether you want to click on it.

When the French law comes into force, we will not show preview content in France for a European news publication unless the publisher has taken steps to tell us that's what they want. This applies to search results across Google services.”

How should publishers respond?

You may have received an email from Google related to this change, but this email doesn’t explain how to check or change your status. Here’s what you should do.

  1. Find out who in your organisation has access to Google Search Console - this is likely to be handled by your tech team, SEO team, product team or senior editorial team
  2. Ask them to login with this link
  3. Ensure a decision-maker from the business reads over the page and selects the correct option for your publication. Publishers are required to untick the box if it is ticked, ensuring they aren’t included in the list of European press publications
  4. The message mentioned earlier this article will be displayed, requiring confirmation
  5. Should you need to, consult your legal team before ticking or unticking this box

What else should we be aware of?

A politico.eu report estimates that French publishers alone lose up to €320 million per year because of Google and Facebooks’ influence in online advertising. Publishers expected this new legislation to be a significant bargaining chip to use against tech giants publishers feel should compensate their losses. Unless the EU finds a way around Google’s approach this legislation could be limited in scope, and as such, France is planning to create a tech regulator to slap sanctions and fines on the companies.

While unrelated to this change in law, Facebook has reached agreements with major publishers to pay them for content displayed in the upcoming Facebook news tab. Does this mean smaller publishers will start receiving a new revenue stream from Facebook? We’ll have to wait and see.

Further reading:

Google's European Press Publisher FAQ 


Orange speech bubbles

How Publishers can Master the Comments Section

As publisher ad revenue shrinks and we accept that Facebook traffic won’t return to previous highs, there seems to be a growing desire to create direct reader revenue through engaged audiences. Interactivity increases engagement and time spent: assets for publishers that are hard to come by in a time when Facebook can’t be relied upon like it used to, and before the usefulness of Facebook’s upcoming News tab can be understood. 

Comments sections are a tried and tested method of supplementing this interactivity, but they’re not without their downsides. Conversations concerning the ethics of comment sections (and how useful they really are for publishers, anyway) began globally around 2014, and soon, internationally renowned titles such as Reuters, NPR, Mic, and Bloomberg all dropped their comments sections. The thing is, these decisions were made on the back of the belief that social media was now the place for the kind of discussion formerly catalysed by comments. Now that publishers can’t rely on Facebook, is it time for them to reopen comments sections in the pursuit of increased engagement, and consequently, revenue?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer. In 2016, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers published a report questioning the purpose of comments, where it mentioned “potential brand damage”. Resident Advisor attributes the 2019 closure of its popular comments section to callous remarks made by trolls. The University of Texas’ Centre for Media Engagement found, in its recent study “Attacks in the Comment Sections: What It Means for News Sites”, that users who view news stories with high numbers of uncivil comments had negative attitudes towards the site. The site was viewed as less valuable than those whose comments sections boasted mainly positivity.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Andrew Losowsky, Head of Coral (an open-source project helping publishers build better communities around their journalism) at Vox Media, told What’s New In Publishing:

“There are compelling reasons why it’s worth investing in comments on your site. While they’re usually a small percentage of your total audience, commenters are often your most loyal and most valuable readers. They spend longer on the site, they come back more often, they share more links to your site, and they’re more likely to pay for subscriptions and other services. They’re also potential sources for ideas and stories.”

There are a few methods publishers can use to monitor their comments sections. Consider using a strong spam filter to keep spam sequestered in a spam folder, and feature a clearly displayed comment policy. You don’t have to resign yourself to old excuses, like “that’s just the internet”!

It’s difficult, however, to moderate comments at scale. One way around this is to only allow paying subscribers to comment on site. This is likely to deter trolls, and helps publishers keep a handle on moderation. Sanjay Sindhwani, CEO of Indian Express Digital, has previously acknowledged that “if packaged well, publishers can extract good value from comments by bringing out good ones and promoting healthy conversations with limited resources”. 

Thankfully, technology exists that can work in tandem with publishers to keep their comments sections home to constructive discussion. Perspective uses machine learning models to score the perceived impact a comment might have on a conversation. Developers and publishers can use this score to give real time feedback to commenters, help moderators do their job, and allow readers to more easily find relevant information. If you’re looking at interactivity methods to increase engagement and time spent, consider implementing Perspective. 

The aforementioned University of Texas study strongly suggests that publishers’ reputations and pockets would benefit from an overhaul of their comments sections. As Bassey Etim, Community Editor at The New York Times puts it, “The best thing you can do for a community is to actively show people that somebody at the organization is listening. The more you do on that end, the less intense moderation you need to have.”


Snapchat on iPhone with yellow background

Everything we Know About Snapchat's News Tab - So Far

Back in August, we heard that Facebook was to launch a dedicated ‘News’ tab, on which it would showcase top stories by a host of publishers. Now, social app Snapchat has followed suit, announcing its intention to introduce a dedicated news tab to its ‘Discover’ page some time in 2020. It’s a change that Snapchat needed to make if it were to find favour with publishers, and once live, this tab could provide some serious benefits for your publication.

Snapchat’s Discover page is famously chaotic; users must navigate all manner of stories in a seemingly random order to find news they’re interested in. They may find serious political news from a publisher such as The Guardian next to light-hearted entertainment reporting. Even chief exec Evan Spiegel told investors in a recent earnings call that the current approach is like going into a "supermarket without the aisles labeled." Clearly, the company is not shy about its desire for an overhaul of Discover, and its intention to work with publishers in a more serious way. A specific section within Discover that's dedicated to news would make it far easier for users to find what the stories they want. This news section is set to "...present real-time, breaking news from a handful of trusted news partners." This could be the moment Snapchat finds faith with publishers who were apprehensive about Discover before.

Discover received a redesign in 2018 to separate publisher content, but this marks the first of a number of changes. Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc, is already in talks with publishers about potential partnerships, where publications could create and distribute daily content optimised for mobile. So far, the company has partnered with a number of big-hitter publications, from Refinery29 to The Washington Post. Generally, though, Snap’s conversations with publishers are only just beginning. Their arrangements, which could include sharing of ad revenue or the payment of licensing fees to publishers, have yet to be agreed.

Despite of its flaws, some media companies have already enjoy successes in Discover’s current iteration. NBC News’ ‘Stay Tuned’ show has tens of millions of regular viewers. CNN, on the other hand, cancelled its daily Snapchat Discover news show way back in 2017, as it simply wasn’t generating enough revenue. 

An overhaul of Discover could do Snapchat some much-needed favours. While it appears to be returning to growth, it still struggles to match the numbers of the likes of Instagram.


Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

Evergreen Content Transforms Publishing Companies - Here's Why

Let’s think about the typical journey of a story posted on your website.

A writer is made aware of a topic they believe will intrigue their readership. They devote time to research, accruing quotes and assets, and clarify their findings. They write the story. It’s subbed, added to their publications’ CMS and published. For a brief period, the story occupies a precious few pixels on a homepage. It’s aggregated to platforms such as Apple News and Flipboard, and surfaced through social media. Readers may share the story across their timelines. There’s a chance it’ll feature in the publication’s weekly newsletter. A strong story might have a shelf life of a week, but some stories will survive for a few short hours.

For many of these stories, short shelf life isn’t just, and requiring this much resource for one short influx of traffic makes for an inefficient and ineffective business model. But it doesn’t need to be this way. Evergreen content - stories that remain relevant regardless of the passing of time - can yield noticeable returns for publishers. In this post we’ll explain why evergreen content is so valuable, how to create it, how to repurpose existing content, how to drive traffic to evergreen content and how to measure its success.

How do you define evergreen content?

Evergreen stories are those that visitors continue to derive value from over a long period. Traffic may arrive to them through backlinks, social posts, through search or through your own website architecture, continually notching up article views over a longer than normal lifespan.

Why is evergreen content so valuable?

Different publications have different measures of success. At Mathematics we focus on lifetime value; working to turn casual visitors into return readers, using loyalty to maximise the lifetime value of a reader. You may measure success through unique users, read times, watch times or ad impressions, but whatever the metric, one thing remains true: the harder your content works, the higher the potential revenue. It's possible to measure the success of your stories through lifetime value too - put simply, requiring three hours of resource to drive 100,000 pageviews over the course of two hours just doesn’t compare to allotting five hours to drive 1,000,000 pageviews over the course of two years. An evergreen content strategy focuses on the creation of articles, videos or audio that continually drive views and maximise the lifetime value of that content.

How do we create evergreen content?

A good evergreen content strategy starts by reframing the way we produce content. As a first step, journalists can ask a question - will this story still be relevant in a month, six months or a year? If not, is it possible to approach the piece in a way that offers that longevity? Instead of creating multiple short pieces on a developing story, look at creating a well-structured, in-depth piece that offers the reader a complete overview. Instead of covering a story by referring only to the press release, approach it from an evergreen angle and accrue original quotes, background, data and bring together other coverage, including other sources.

Certain formats will make for better evergreen candidates, so a strategy that balances news pieces with the following types of format can work well:

  • How-tos
  • Tutorials
  • Infographics
  • 'Explainer' videos
  • 'History of' roundups
  • Reviews
  • FAQs
  • Biographies
  • Timelines

Updating these pieces in due course will extend shelf life. This could mark a big shift from how your publication creates content, but this shift can have a big effect on the value your readers derive from your content.

How do we identify which of our stories could be evergreen?

We can identify candidates for this type of content by looking at 'lifetime value'. You may calculate this value in a number of ways but we would suggest looking at read time, scroll depth and overall views since the story was published. There's no designated tool for this in Google Analytics but these metrics can be found using Google Tag Manager - speak with your development team about setting this up.

A simple way to find stories with evergreen potential is to access Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages in Google Analytics and download a list of the most popular articles in the last full month, then do the same for each preceding month, looking for stories that show up across multiple months. Then dig into the data for that story to get a feel for its performance.

Parse.ly have some useful tools for calculating which pieces of content you should optimise to turn evergreen including the ‘Evergreen Overview’ report. Here's a sample report:

Parse.ly Evergreen Overview report example

As you can see, Parse.ly conglomerates data from all posts it deems to be evergreen within a timeframe of your choosing. It selects these posts according to whether or not they continue to drive significant traffic to your site three days after publishing.

Once you’ve recorded these evergreen stories, it’s time to go one further to aid a truly thorough evergreen content strategy.

At WIRED - whose evergreen strategy is excellent - the team sometimes select “Average Engaged Time” to find evergreen articles that may not be getting traffic. The most important metric in this process is the lifecycle filter: ‘Evergreen’ or ‘Evergreen Candidate’. ‘Evergreen’ filters for steadily-trafficked posts more than 20 days old. ‘Evergreen Candidate’ filters for steadily-trafficked posts between 8-20 days old. For a thorough explanation, click here.

Now that you know which pieces of content are providing the evergreen effect, it’s time to ensure that they continue to do so.

How do we keep our content evergreen?

Your older articles may predate the latest updates to your site, so ensure that these pieces match the current look and feel of your site, with correct headings, no broken or low res images, or missing, outdated embeds.

Once this is covered it's just a case of removing the timeliness of a post. Amend wording tied to a specific time period, add further context, update the story and if using data, look into updating this data or making this data 'live' by using a tool like Data Studio.

Be sure to maintain and update a list of your evergreen URLs so that you’re able to periodically check them and update them. Don’t hesitate to make these updates; they resurface stories in the eyes of Google which lends itself to a great SEO strategy, as do additional links to internal and external sources that may not have been available when the piece was initially published. Be sure to carefully monitor your metadata when updating articles in this way to avoid discrepancies between its headline and URL. For more advice on SEO best practice, click here

How do we drive traffic back to evergreen content?

Now, you can have fun with the distribution and re-promotion of your evergreen content. The WIRED team take the best stories to social in a number of ways. Here’s what Indu Chandrasekhar, Director of Audience Development, told Parse.ly: “We’ve played around with language. We’ve pulled quotes from the story. We’ve made special art and created special assets. We’ve done Twitter threads. We’ve done interviews, we’ve done excerpts. There’s no end to things you can do. It’s one of the places you can play around the most. Are there holidays or special events you can peg these stories to?”

Why not start adding one or two evergreen stories to your mailer? You could add them in their own dedicated section, incorporate them into the bulk of the copy, or even start a brand new ‘archive’ newsletter. It could be worth trying all of these approaches to see which works best for you - your most loyal readers are likely to receive your mailer they may well be the audience most enthusiastic to revisit your best content.

It may be worth creating a document which lists all your evergreen stories and sharing it amongst your team, encouraging them to link to these stories when appropriate. You could also create a variation of a ‘Start Here’ page to list evergreen posts and signpost them to new readers, or create a ‘Top Posts’ section in a sidebar visible on every page of your site. 

Can my tech team help with an evergreen strategy?

They certainly can. As well as helping to configure Google Tag Manager or Analytics your website architecture can be reworked to surface your strongest evergreen content and increase pageviews from visitors. At Mathematics we've built "evergreen" functionality for some publishers. To use this editorial click a simple button in their CMS to define an article as evergreen. We give this type of story more weight in 'related' areas, deliver these stories into specific 'evergreen' areas on the site and send notifications to editors to include them in newsletters. By separating these stories out in the CMS the team have easy access to them too, making updates and reshares easy for the team.

What else should we think about?

Publications should strive to make content evergreen as part of a wider aim to increase traffic whilst reducing volatility - raising the depths of traffic troughs (or 'valleys'), rather than heightening its peaks. You want your readers to arrive, stick around, consume more content and return to your site periodically, not spend seconds with one viral story, only to never return. At Mathematics we call this kind of growth 'valley elevation'.

With an effective evergreen strategy in place you can monitor valley elevation by paying attention to the variants on your weekly and monthly traffic. Naturally, you should aim for a general upward trend over a long period of time. Essentially, to elevate valleys is to increase the ‘half-life’ of your content; that is, the time required for your content’s value to reduce. Working to elevate valleys whilst ensuring peaks remain tall steadily increases the value of a publisher’s entire site.

In summary, evergreen content can create strong, predictable long-term success. Master evergreen content whilst reporting regularly like you do best, and you should yield some serious returns.


laptop on table with google search

Google to Boost ‘Original Reporting’ - How to React to the Change

Recently, Google updated their search rater guidelines to help them better recognise and reward original reporting by surfacing it more prominently in search and ensuring it stays there longer. This means readers interested in a specific story can find the piece that started all the fuss, and publishers can reap the rewards of having their high-quality original reporting surfaced to a greater number of users. Here’s a guide to the changes and our tips on how to make the most of this new behaviour.

What does this change entail?

Let's say your publication has secured an exclusive interview with an A-list celebrity. This interview includes a number of revelations as yet unheard by the public. Months of work has gone into securing access, your team has researched, created, subbed and produced a great piece, and you publish it. In our current news cycle, many publications regularly borrow quotes and angles from others, creating pages of content about this topic in Google's SERP. Elsewhere, a single news event will be covered by many thousands of publications worldwide. Your publication may dig deeper than others by sharing data on specific angles of the story or accruing quotes from sources central to the story.

Google's changes aim to aid their users to find the original source on news topics. Moving forward, articles recognised by Google as 'original reporting' on a given search term may stay in a highly visible position on the search results page over a long period of time. We're yet to see exactly where these will be positioned, but it's likely these will sit above all other results.

How will Google do this?

Google's algorithms sort through content, arranging stories in a way that offers the best experience for their users. These algorithms are constantly updated and improved, and Google's latest change to the algorithm is to train it to take into account the 'originality' of content within a story, the timing of the post and the quality of the publication producing it.

To achieve this, Google will harness the use of a 10,000-strong team of raters worldwide. This team has been instructed to use the highest rating - “very high quality” - for original news reporting “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it." Noting that "...original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort.”

These raters will be tasked to consider a publication's reputation, too. From Google's guidelines: “...you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high-quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation.”

How will this change affect a publications' traffic?

Ranking in a top position for a popular search term will have a significant effect on traffic for a publication, so this change is likely to offer the greatest benefit to newspapers and large publications pinned on the page for popular terms.

We're yet to see whether this change will also affect niche stories, but if this happens it could aid specialist publications with long-tail traffic on stories broken by them and then picked up by larger publications.

This change is unlikely to affect the results below this highlighted story, however, so don't expect a huge drop in traffic from search.

How can we use this update to our advantage with SEO?

Now's the time to look at how you can increase the longevity of stories by producing them with an 'evergreen' approach in mind. Rather than reworking existing stories or publishing slightly tweaked press releases, publications that add to stories with further reporting, quotes, new angles or 'deep-dives' could find themselves pinned to Google's results, attracting a steady stream of long term traffic.

As Google raters will be analysing publisher reputation, it could be worth looking at an 'About' page (remember them?), using this to cement your publication as an authority, listing journalistic awards and accolades. It could make sense to update Wikipedia entries with this information, too.

Secure exclusives whenever it makes sense to, and when working with embargoed press releases, spend time ahead of publication to ensure the story probes deeper than others. The knock-on result for your audience is a further increase in the quality of content which will reap benefits for your publication overall, building loyalty and increasing dwell times - another positive!

 

This could prove a significant change to the behaviour of content in Google’s search results page. But, don't be intimidated. For publications which already devote time and resource to producing original takes on a topic, this update could bring with it serious rewards. Continue to focus on telling stories you care about in the way you'd expect of another top-tier publisher, and you're well on your way to capitalising upon this search update, and benefiting your publication hugely as a result. 


Facebook on iPhone next to Macbook

Facebook is Looking to Hire Journalists for its News Tab

Last year, Facebook closed its Trending Topics section, which aimed to provide users with a quick news overview. According to the company it had become “less and less useful”, accounting for fewer than 1.5% of clicks for publishers internationally. This followed a dramatic dialing down of news content in user’s feeds, favouring posts from friends and family, reducing traffic to news publishers, bankrupting a number of publishers with it. Digital publisher LittleThings attributes its shutdown solely to Facebook's algorithm alteration, whereas publications like Topix and Bustle lost 35.3% and 29.5% of their traffic respectively.

Facebook’s next change for publishers is the “News tab”. In this post, we’ll explore what the News tab means for publishers and how it will operate day-to-day, and how publishers can capitalise on its addition to the world’s most popular social media platform.

How will the News tab work?

Facebook has decided to employ humans to facilitate and moderate a dedicated 'News' area on the website and app. It will be the team’s job to handle a ‘Top News’ section of the tab by curating breaking, national and international stories from a wide network of publishers, while the rest of the tab’s feed is populated algorithmically based on data Facebook has on the user.

Facebook is currently seeking partnerships with media outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC News, Dow Jones and Bloomberg, though talks are ongoing. The benefits of partnership have not been explicitly stated, but it’s thought that Facebook will promote content by partnered brands in the News tab, meaning their stories are surfaced more frequently than others. But, the journalists in charge of curation may populate the tab with stories from any source. The addition of the News tab has not been said to alter the current functionality of Facebook’s News Feed in any way - yet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these partnered publishers will receive a US$3 million licensing fee from Facebook licensing their content in the News tab. The idea for these partnerships was first raised publicly in a conversation Mark Zuckerberg had with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner earlier this year. Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement:

“Our goal with the News tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people. The majority of stories people will see will appear in the tab via algorithmic selection. To start, for the Top News section of the tab we’re pulling together a small team of journalists to ensure we’re highlighting the right stories.”

Brown also added that training those algorithms to personalise content is a resource-heavy exercise, in terms of both data and time. So, Facebook’s hired journalists will act as gatekeepers of the integrity and responsibility of the News tab, consequently accelerating its rollout.

How can publishers capitalise?

It’s likely the News tab will feel in some ways similar to other news curation services like Apple News, Flipboard or Smartnews, so learnings from these platforms could aid publishers here.

Facebook’s decision to hire an editorial team may open up conversation between publishers and that team, with publishers pitching to Facebook for features. Strong headlines and images will help publications jostle for space alongside each other, and it’s likely Facebook will take engagement on stories into account when deciding article prominence. Carrying (relatively discreet) branding on thumbnails could help increase brand awareness and clicks - see how The Guardian adds its logo onto each story. We’ll create an in-depth guide with more tips once we’ve seen the tab in action.

The Guardian's subtle on-site branding

Facebook isn’t the first tech company to enlist the help of professionals when curating the content visible to users. Click here to learn how Apple News’ editorial team works with algorithms to tailor the contents of the app.


Downton Abbey fashion designer Anna Robbins

Welcoming HELLO! to Apple News

HELLO! is a cornerstone of the celebrity news and lifestyle publishing world. Launched in 1988 by publisher Eduardo Sánchez Junco as an English equivalent to his already popular, Spanish-language ¡Hola! Magazine, HELLO! quickly became a household name known for its exclusive access to the British royal family and A-list celebrities, beautiful picture-led features and award-winning writing. HELLO!’s weekly print edition is one of the most widely-read publications in the United Kingdom, while its online version attracts millions of unique users through a fast-moving mix of news stories, features, galleries and videos.

Using FlatPlan, HELLO! was able to integrate with Apple News without requiring any changes to their core content management system. We enabled the editorial team to feed stories directly to Apple News from their CMS without any additional steps in their workflow, opening up a huge new audience for their content. At the time of writing, HELLO!’s team are feeding all stories to Apple News, displayed proudly on a channel designed to clearly communicate that this is a publication with a lot to say. 

Hello! magazine's Apple News channelKnown to be among the UK’s most popular celebrity news publishers for decades prior to the launch of its Apple News channel, HELLO! very quickly earned some serious authority on the platform. Already, the publication’s stories have been featured in Top Stories, Spotlight and Trending Stories dozens of times.

Stories in Apple News are presented with a ‘Related Stories’ section below, offering publishers the opportunity to appear alongside international publications with readerships of all sizes. HELLO! represents an interesting departure from the regular function of this feature; the magazine owns its niche to such an extent that Apple News’ algorithm regularly recommends it beneath its own stories.

How did we ensure HELLO!’s goals were met?

Apple News launched in September 2015, so whilst Hello! wasn’t among the first publishers to integrate with the platform, we wanted to ensure that its stories impacted both those familiar with the brand and those interested in what it covers who have yet to become fans. With that in mind, we introduced tasteful branding to Hello!’s Apple News articles, including fading logos while the user scrolls.

HELLO! from Mathematics on Vimeo.

 

Using Apple News, the HELLO! team hoped to open up a new space for their content and benefit from its monetisation potential, after enjoying significant returns on aggregation platforms such as Flipboard. This required a solid understanding on how best to approach content creation for the platform, so our team met with the HELLO! editorial team to offer guidance before launch, and are on hand every day to help maximise potential as the channel grows.

HELLO! aimed to use Apple News to target a new, younger demographic and direct this audience to their various print and digital channels. A useful tool for this is FlatPlan’s custom footers. These footers appear at the bottom of all HELLO! articles in Apple News, and can be tailored to direct users to specific locations. Currently, HELLO!’s footer invites the reader to sign up to its newsletter, and as the channel continues to grow this call to action will work to drive all manner of goals as required by the publisher.

Hello! magazine's custom Apple News footer

HELLO!’s Apple News channel has sustained very high numbers of unique users per month since integration, with stories living on elegant yet crystal-clear layouts designed by FlatPlan. Here’s how HELLO!’s articles are presented in Apple News’ desktop and iPad versions:

Hello! magazine Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's entourage story desktop

Here’s that same story on iPhone:

Hello! magazine's Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan entourage story mobile

Moving forward, HELLO! plans to continue growing, with FlatPlan’s audience development team offering guidance on everything from increasing followers and dwell times, to using data to inform their editorial strategies. Our fluency in all things Apple News allowed HELLO!’s already popular reportage to find an even larger audience. A simple RSS integration into Apple News format was all it took for HELLO!’s stories to reach a large new group of readers with a hunger for the latest happenings in the world of the celebrity. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a quote from Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon, Head of Digital at HELLO!

FlatPlan has opened up our content to a wide new audience - crucially, without infringing on our day-to-day operations or draining our resource. We’re in regular conversation with their team, working to continually optimise and build our Apple News channel and audience.

Welcome to Apple News, HELLO!

If you’d like to find out how simple your publication’s Apple News integration could be, head to our site.


Inside the World of "Responsible" News Startups

Responsible news is how I refer to the group of organisations striving to un-bias news consumption in an age defined by political polarity and an apparent unwillingness to engage in constructive, structured dialogue with opposing parties. You’ve seen this too, everywhere from Twitter to the most high-profile news on the planet. To provide news in this way is irresponsible. Yet, in a political climate as turbulent as ours, adapting practice is hardly a priority for much of top-tier journalism.

It may come as a relief that there is a group of news organisations striving to simplify access to quality reporting, by aggregating that of our most reliable sources or by creating their own. These organisations value quality over quantity, in both quality news and quality time spent with their platform. In this piece, we focus on three organisations: Tortoise, Kinzen and Curio. Their subversion of traditional models makes our access to world-class reporting simpler than ever. Each could fit into our lives in a totally seamless way.

Tortoise

James Harding, the former Director of BBC News who co-founded Tortoise, coined the term ‘slow news’. It refers to an observation he has made lately in his decorated career: that the stories which took the longest to complete were consistently those that bore the most significant impact. “It was a lesson that said, actually, when you take the time, you can do journalism that is really valued and valuable – so that was the thinking [behind Tortoise Media],” he told Press Gazette.

Tortoise Media Responsible Journalism

First, we need to clarify that as Amol Rajan of the BBC correctly points out, “slow news has been around for years. It’s called the ‘Features’ section”. You know that, so you’re right to wonder why we need platforms like Tortoise: the labour of love belonging to Harding and Katie Venneck-Smith (former President of Wall Street Journal). Tortoise members contribute directly to the editorial process thanks to what Hardy calls a ‘system of organised listening’.

Tortoise’s ‘Daily Edition’ - the daily AM news bulletin - won’t be a digest of top stories of the day. Instead, it will go in depth on five - possibly under-reported - stories. Tortoise hosts a daily “ThinkIn” from 6:00pm-7:40pm, encouraging attendees not to just ask questions, but to share strong opinions. It is broadcast live.

To tackle the ‘echo chamber’ effect, Tortoise plans to eventually take its ThinkIns on the road to prisons, clubs and schools.

Tortoise will be “non-party-political” with “no proprietor” and no “subtle relationships with advertisers”. Harding wants to shift from the focus on “liberty and fairness” of news organisations of the past. “Dignity - the idea that everyone has a right to be recognised and respected”, is his priority.

All of this output will focus on five broad areas: technology, finance, natural resources, identity and longevity.

Staff

With 20 top staffers full-time already, Tortoise hopes to employ over 40 permanent staffers by mid-2019. 10 editors will get a budget to bring in contributors, and Tortoise’s staff team of reporters and researchers will handle a significant portion of the original journalism.

Tortoise has disavowed breaking news but will still aim to break the type of stories that will be covered elsewhere.

Business Model

Tortoise’s business model is all about membership - a “high-quality, low volume” business. Harding “doesn’t believe in native content” and he doesn’t want Tortoise to “become an ad agency”.

Revenue is also driven by commercial partnerships with big institutions, for whom Tortoise will organise on-site ThinkIns, which resemble the TED Talks model. The aim is to strike up 8 to 10 such partnerships with industry leaders.

Tortoise is currently in beta phase - it’s unclear if a free trial version will be available once the platform launches properly. We don’t know when exactly that will be, but Tortoise’s offer of a discount for founding members ends on March 31st, implying a launch soon after.

To help outline the myriad merits of the platform, we spoke to Liz Moseley, Tortoise’s Members Editor. Consider this an outline of what the app aims to achieve, and how that distances it from the news pack.

Mathematics: Can you elaborate on what James means exactly when he refers to a “system of organised listening” - that is, how precisely users contribute to the editorial process?

Liz Moseley, Members Editor: When somebody joins Tortoise, they become a member of the newsroom, which means that they are active contributors to what we do.

My job, which I think is unique in news media, is a case in point. I’m an Editor, I’m in the daily conference, the long term planning conversations, and my sole focus is to act as the conduit between the members and the journalistic effort. So, I find people in the member base who can develop stories with us, and we gather their feedback.

At the moment the main channel in the product for this is the ThinkIn. We host them four times a week at the moment, usually (not always) in the newsroom itself. So members come in around 5pm, when we’re still at work, and we have a conversation. In the course of that conversation - sometimes on a predetermined topic, sometimes on the news of the day - we will form a point of view. Informed by what people say.

Frequently, members raise questions that warrant follow up journalistically, so we write pieces that come directly off the back of what’s been said. We use footage from the Thinkins within the stories, it’s important the members can see themselves in the process and the work itself. We use our members as fact checkers, and actually as our conscience too. One of the first features we built in the beta app was “WDyT” which stands for “what do you think”. We’ve been bowled over by the amount of and quality of input we’ve had. I’ve worked in media for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. Members are incredibly committed to it - they won’t let us rest on our laurels for a second.

Does Tortoise’s membership fee risk fostering coverage of stories that only affects a certain bracket of the population?

The full suite of pricing isn't live yet. At the moment it's £50 for three years for u30s, and the same if you get a gang together as join as a group of 10 or more. That's pretty good value. We'll be rolling our student pricing, pricing for social enterprises and so on as we build out. So we are being very deliberate about making sure Tortoise is accessible. The diversity of the member base is crucial to the success of the whole thing.

James Harding Responsible Journalism News
James Harding of Tortoise Media

How will Tortoise strive to keep access to its services democratic?

Our home is in central London and it would be easy, or at least easier, for us to create an experience that is London-bound. Inviting people into the newsroom is one thing, but when we take Tortoise on the road and host ThinkIns in other places - even those that are still in London strangely - the conversations we have change.

For those people who can't make it to us, we're bringing the Tortoise to you. So, for example, we hosted a ThinkIn in a school that is particularly affected by knife crime. This week we did a ThinkIn in a church. We're going to a care home in Norwich. We have events coming up in Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol. In the next couple of months we're having ThinkIns in Amsterdam and New York. They’ll all be livestreamed.

The decision for a new company to host a conference (the ThinkIn) every day is a bold one. What measures will you take to keep this up in spite of how busy we can all be, or how tired after a hard day at work?

Strangely, we're more worried about scaling it up than keeping it up. We want to be able to host ThinkIns wherever the members are. At the moment, demand is high and the quality is getting better all the time as we learn more about how to bring people into the conversation. When it comes to 5pm and we start to welcome people in (we're all still working when the members arrive), it doesn't feel like an effort, it's exciting. Because it's different every time. There's a buzz about it.

Do you view Tortoise as a competitor to other, more established newsrooms, or as a complementary service?

At the moment it is complementary. People will always want their breaking news and they can't get that from us. Quite a lot of our founding members are self-professed news junkies. They're building the Tortoise habit at the moment, and we are starting to hear that some of them are easing off some of their previous news sources now they're enjoying Tortoise. But that's not what the business model is based on. It's not an instead, it's an alternative.

Kinzen

Kinzen Responsible Journalism

Unlike Tortoise, Kinzen is a news aggregator, as opposed to a newsroom in its own right. Kinzen utilises machine learning to allow a user to take control of their news consumption routine. That's what they see, when they see it, how much of it they see.

Kinzen hope to “make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.”

Users can respond positively or negatively to news they’re provided with in Kinzen’s different topic channels. These are what’s analysed to present users with news they want. But you can also integrate your Twitter feed, where Kinzen’s algorithm will watch topics you follow.

However, it is still in the testing phase, so Little and his team are building a pre-launch community over the next two months, inviting people to test pre-release versions of the iOS app.

Kinzen currently has two long term goals, not outlined in detail as of yet: to reward valuable curators in the community, and to interest news organisations, presumably into partnership of some kind.

Business model

Kinzen launched in January on a £5 subscription basis. Before launch, they were seeking donations in exchange for six months of access to Kinzen’s subscription services after launch.

In order to better understand Kinzen on a conceptual level and situate it clearly in the responsible news landscape, we reached out to CEO and co-founder Mark Little.

What type of content are Kinzen actively looking for, and what publications are you looking to court?

Kinzen’s mission is to connect the active news seekers of the world with the sources who reward their trust and attention. In other words, to build a user experience of news worth paying for. Our perfect partner is a publisher who wants to build deeper personal engagement with members of the communities they serve.  

How does Kinzen benefit publishers?

Kinzen is purpose-built for publishers who want to develop reader revenue products based on personalisation.

Our first product is a personal news app which offers users a highly curated experience of the open web. Initially, this drives traffic to publisher websites, and will soon become a sales pipeline for publishers offering subscription content. It will also help us perfect and refine Kinzen’s unique brand of ‘personalisation with a purpose’.

In parallel, Kinzen is developing a ‘white-label’ version of its user experience for partners. This technology solution will help publishers develop personalised newsletters and audio briefings, and can be eventually integrated into publisher apps and websites.

How can publishers monetise using Kinzen?

First, publishers can use the Kinzen app as a lead generation tool for their reader revenue products (without sacrificing revenue or user relationships). Second, publishers can use Kinzen technology to build new reader revenue products or enhance existing ones.  

Do stories link directly to publishers à la Flipboard, or is all news viewed within the app?

All stories in the app link back to the publishers’ websites. All potential premium subscribers are directed to the publisher paywall/gate.

Technically speaking, how does a publisher get its content onto Kinzen? Do they provide an RSS feed, or is there more to it than that?

Kinzen’s data team can scrape, tag and organise content from any existing open website without any special relationship with the publishers. But RSS feeds will be core to any relationships based on reader revenue.

In an era when publishers are building loyalty and striving to retain valuable audiences of their own, why would you recommend a publisher work with Kinzen?

Kinzen’s founding team are old-school journalists who have worked for both traditional publishers and social platforms. We have a deep understanding of the problems facing publishers in a world dominated by big tech companies and aggregators. Kinzen doesn’t sell your ads, sell your content or ‘own’ your audience. We judge success by the value of the personal bond we help create between news seekers and publishers.

Users are encouraged to build their own channels, to explore what matters to them. How does Kinzen avoid turning each user’s experience into an echo chamber?

One of Kinzen’s founding goals is to help people see beyond the usual sources, and discover journalism they never knew existed.

We do not have an ad-funded business model. Our algorithms don’t need to fuel outrage and emotion. Kinzen does not track your browser history to keep you addicted to the same sources and opinions. We don’t rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking.

Instead, we have a Discovery section in the app which surfaces expertly curated sources and channels and an Emerging Topics feature which engineers serendipity based on editorial choices rather than popularity. Explicit user feedback and conscious choices drive our recommender systems.

Curio

Curio Responsible Journalism

Curio stands out in the lineup as it’s audio-led. There isn’t quite the same amount of information about Curio available online as Tortoise and Kinzen, but their site tells us that Curio creates “Intelligent Audio For Busy People". It offers thousands of high-quality audio stories from the best publications in the world, no annoying ads, offline listening, all hand-picked by editors and read to the listener by award-winning narrators. What we know for certain is Curio’s sources are among the planet’s most reliable, including the Guardian, The Financial Times, The Economist and The Washington Post.

Naturally, we wanted to be able to provide some concrete information explaining how the platform is of use to publishers. We were put in touch with Tainá Vilela, Curio’s Head of Brand, who helped make the service’s operations totally transparent.

How does Curio provide value for a user, from the perspective of the people working on it?

It's easier to discover great timeless stories with Curio, stories are often buried under a large volume of information. We are passionate about choosing content that is relevant to our lives and what goes on in the world.

Our unrivalled collection of audio format stories, from some of the world’s most respected media outlets, gives people an opportunity to engage with great journalism on the go.

Does Curio view itself as a competitor to other ‘reading-led’ news apps such as Kinzen and Tortoise, or a complementary service?

Audio versus reading is not an "either or". There are parts of our regular daily lives when screens are not ideal or easily accessible, like when we are commuting, cooking, performing chores around the house or before going to bed. That is when audio shines.

Who are your ‘award winning narrators’ and how are they selected?

Several of them are Audie Award winners who have worked for brands like National Geographic, BBC, Disney and others. They are trained actors and performers who are able to bring empathy, gravitas and life into any story.

Is an emphasis placed on individual publications within the app, or on your own curated playlists? In other words, are users encouraged to prioritise one over the other?

We help listeners find stories they love and publications to reach new audiences, increase engagement and create a new stream of revenue.

We uncover great ideas, well crafted pieces which can instigate interesting debate and personal growth. Good quality comes from established outlets like The Guardian, which was founded almost 200 years ago or AEON, a magazine around philosophy and culture which launched in 2012 and is still pretty much under the radar.

How will Curio ingest and consider user feedback?

At Curio we are always listening. Our listeners are more than just “users” to us, they are stakeholders who trust us to provide them with the best content out there. Their feedback has a daily impact on our product, so we make sure to listen, learn and work on becoming better.

Elsewhere in Responsible News

In 2013, Jessica Lessin founded The Information: a subscription-based digital news organisation which Tortoise seemingly owes a lot to. The Information shares only a small handful of news stories per day. It earns 90% of its revenue from subscriptions, and an estimated 10,000 subscribers pay $399 per year for the service. It has been profitable for over two years.

The 900,000-subscribers team at The Financial Times are interested in The Information’s strategy. They have reportedly discussed ways they could help to accelerate growth.

Agate, is another startup that allows users to pay for individual articles as they go. It’s a digital wallet for which publishers can set their own pricing on a story-by-story basis. Agate aims to make it easier to consume premium content without blockage from an unaffordable paywall. But, in a crowded market of micropayment startups, they have a tough job ahead of them.

Spaceship Media isn’t a platform, rather a form of consultancy that helps news organisations remain unbiased. They do this using ‘dialogue journalism’ - a process developed by founders Eve Pearman and Jeremy Hay - to “[go] to the heart of social and political fractures” and “[build] journalism-supported conversations between regular people about the issues of deep consequence to all us”. Their belief is that establishing a journalism-supported dialogue between communities in conflict helps solve that conflict. In their words:

We work with media organizations and others on several different levels. We design and manage engagement conversations from the ground up; we provide design and ongoing consulting support; we provide consulting around our engagement values and methodology and project visioning.

Vigilant won the 2018 Startups for News contest at the General Editors Network conference. The platform offers ‘real time search and monitoring across thousands of public data sources’. This makes it easier for journalists to locate stories and angles.

In some ways, it’s a dark time for news journalism. You’re reading this because you know that the boundaries between truthful reporting and spin are blurrier than ever. Luckily, there is a vanguard of organisations whose functionality helps identify news brimming with bias. The purpose of this piece is not to depict one service in a more favourable light than another; we merely want to help you consume responsible news, and ensure your own journalistic output is consumed responsibly.


Facebook News Feed's Optimal Post Rate

What is the Optimal Facebook Post Rate for Publishers?

If you’re in our industry, you’ll doubtless have spent the past couple years trying to avoid an endless barrage of gloomy predictions concerning Facebook’s ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm. More specifically, the ways it favours surfacing almost everything except publisher content in users’ timelines.

And yet, paradoxically, a recent Digiday survey indicates that with no alternatives of similar stature, 70% of publishers contend that Facebook still delivers the best content reach of all platforms.

Which platform provides the greatest reach for paid or promoted campaignsEven for unpaid content circulated organically, 45% of publishers agreed that Facebook was still top dog.

Which platform provides the greatest reach for unpaid posted content

So we sat down with our analyst Barney Perkins to work out how specifically to use the platform to your advantage.

Buffer, the social media management platform, have found that posting five times a day maximises post engagement. Read more about that here. However, we have decided to focus our investigation on the metrics most easily monetised - reach and sessions referred to the website.

Since the algorithm changes, Facebook’s official suggestion is that post rate should not have an effect on reach. This is because the way content is allocated to a user’s news feed depends on relevance.

“Post frequently - Don't worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.” - Facebook

Even if this is true, post rate might still influence the visibility of a publication's content by diluting its average relevance and/or increasing the competition in users’ News Feeds - from the publication and from competitors.

The below analysis looks at the daily total reach (taken from Facebook Insights) and number of posts of a publication’s Facebook page (from Social Insider). It also displays the number of sessions referred to the publication’s website (from Google Analytics). Though there is some ambiguity about whether reach or sessions are more valuable metrics, both are given equal preference.

By conducting a simple linear regression of both reach and sessions on the number of daily posts, we found that there was indeed a negative correlation between post rate and reach, as well as a positive correlation between post rate and the number of sessions.

Model 1: Reach

Aggregated graph of a publication's Reach to Posts Per Day

Model 2: Sessions

Aggregated graph of a publication's Sessions to Posts Per DayBy aggregating the above graphs, we found that the optimal number of Facebook posts per day was 11. But, make some considerations here. Firstly, the model specification is not a perfect fit of the data. In other words, it’s unlikely that had the publication started posting 40 times a day, there would be <0 reach, indicated by the red line:

Aggregated graph of a publication's users to posts per dayOne model we experimented with suggested an optimal post rate of 16 posts per day but behaved very strangely in the extremes. As total followers increased the optimal number of posts would drop down to <1 with an absurdly high expected reach.

In conclusion, the model we’ve focussed on here suggests that publications should aim to post to Facebook 11 times per day, with an exception for content that might have a considerably broad appeal. Perhaps questions of optimum post rate are also questions of what content is most relevant to the highest number of the publication’s followers.


News aggregator apps iPad interface and newspaper

For Publishers: The RSS News Aggregators You Need To Know

The media industry has certainly seen some change over the last few years. Digital distribution has shifted from newsletters to socials to messaging apps, with many consumers now shifting towards news aggregation platforms - apps and websites dedicated to the discovery of short to long-form content, all promising the perfect user experience.

Tech giants like Google and startups like Flipboard are playing an increasingly powerful role in the media, so building out a strong strategy to platform distribution is key. Central to this is choosing the right aggregators to distribute stories to, so with that in mind we’ve rounded up the most important aggregators below. Each can be integrated by simply providing an RSS feed from your website (a standard feature on almost all CMS's).

Flipboard

 

Flipboard Mobile User Interface

Flipboard presents news and feature content from digital publications, photo sharing platforms and blogs in a magazine-influenced format which allows users to ‘flip’ through stories easily. Verified as the fourth highest traffic driver on mobile and tablet for sites in the parse.ly network, Flipboard’s interface was tailored to engage users with a high intent to consume editorial content, which tends to drive good quality traffic back to publication websites. Flipboard monetises through advertising in-app, with ad units and native stories sitting alongside editorial content.

Top 15 traffic sources to parse.ly

Users are invited to indicate their interests so that Flipboard can group content accordingly. They may also save stories into their own Flipboard ‘magazines’ and access stories liked and read by friends, as the app sources content from Facebook and Twitter.

With 145 million monthly users as of August 2018, Flipboard requires a standard RSS feed to ingest publisher content, but with a few modifications, publishers can attract more visibility on the platform. For a more detailed exploration into why a Flipboard integration is worth your while, take a look at our publishers’ guide to the platform.

Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Feedly

 

Feedly Desktop User Interface

Feedly allows users to organise news publishers’ RSS feeds, combining them with social media feeds, and funnelling them to suggest content by interest. Stories can be arranged at the reader's discretion, and the app’s minimalist presentation is ‘optimised for productivity’. Users can search for articles of interest, save them to their ‘Read Later’ tab (which is also compatible with Evernote, Pocket and Instapaper), share articles to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and discover new voices on their ‘Discover’ page.

Publishers can decide whether to showcase content through a full feed (full text and multimedia content consumed within the app) or a partial feed (only showing limited text, inviting readers to browse the full story on your website). How you do this depends on your goals as a publisher - the full feed will offer a better experience to readers in-app which could increase brand affinity and open up opportunity to monetise through articles in-feed, whereas a truncated feed offers referral traffic to your website.

Compatibility: iOS 6.0 or later (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), Android 2.3 or later, browser
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Apple News

 

Apple News Desktop App User Interface

Apple News is a news aggregator developed by - you guessed it - Apple, for its iOS, watchOS and macOS operating systems. Users have stories recommended by Apple News’ algorithm according to how in-app habits portray their interests, but the platform also has a human editorial team. It’s their job to populate the app’s Top Stories and Editors’ Picks pages with eye-catching, well written articles.

Apple News is now available on around 1.4 billion devices around the world, and according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, some 5 billion articles are read on the app each month. As traffic continues to grow it’s clear that a solid audience is available in the platform.

Some 90 million users are on the app every month and its prominence, user experience and clever use of notifications make it the primary news and content source for many. Its algorithms keep access to this audience democratic and not restricted to top-tier publications. A great example of this is the recirculation area below stories, that regularly recommends articles from small publications directly below content from internationally-renowned news brands.

Full integration requires publishers to deliver stories in Apple News Format, which FlatPlan is able to achieve through an RSS feed.

For more detailed arguments in favour of Apple News integration, see this piece we recently published on our site. Once you’ve integrated, you may find our guide to tracking your progress with the platform useful.

Compatibility: iOS, watchOS and macOS
Price: free with Apple devices
Click here to integrate

Google News

 

Google News Mobile User Interface

Google News is Google’s aggregation platform, which ingests publishers’ content via RSS or Atom feeds. It’s currently watching in excess of 65,000 news sources, making it one of the most far-reaching and populous news aggregators available today. Like its competitors, Google News analyses the tastes and behaviours of users to serve them content catered to their unique interests. It differentiates itself from its competitors by providing a timeline of the development of a news story built on content from different publishers. This allows users to track the progress of significant events over time. With over 60 nation-specific editions, Google News is considered one of the finest news aggregators on the market today.

Publishers should know that Google News’ algorithms “uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence - the great reporting done by journalists around the globe.” In other words, Google News stories feature prominent publisher branding and private monetisation opportunities for publishers, including advertising and streamlined subscription sales. Find out more about editorial control and monetisation in Google’s Publisher Center.

In conclusion, Google News is favoured by publishers as it gives them a fair chance at getting their content noticed, getting paid, and suppressing misinformation.

Compatibility: iOS, Android and Desktop
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Kinzen

 

Kinzen Mobile User Interface

Kinzen is a news aggregation platform that utilises machine learning to allow a user to take control of their news consumption routine. That’s what they see, when they see it, how much of it they see. Kinzen hopes to “make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.” This occurs as users can respond positively or negatively to news that appears in Kinzen’s topic channels. Also, users can integrate their Twitter feeds, and the algorithm will watch topics they follow.

Unlike other aggregation platforms, Kinzen claim they don’t “rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking. We offer an empowering personal news routine based on the best intentions of members rather than empty clicks, likes or hearts.”

If you’re a publisher, you might rightly wonder why you should spend time integrating with an app that charges users for content you already provide for free. The value of Kinzen is in how it creates a news routine uniquely aligned to the daily needs of its users. This creates enormous value for the app itself, which could lead to regular usage, and potentially, a new swathe of returning visitors to your content.

As for generating revenue for your publication, Kinzen make the following claim on their site:

We do not rely on advertising. In the Kinzen app, we do recommend publisher content that contains advertising, but take no cut from the revenue. Instead, we are actively working with publishers big and small to develop revenue models based on direct support from members.

For more information on Kinzen, please refer to this piece, in which we have a chat with CEO and co-founder Mark Little.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: Limited range of channels and controls for free, then €/$5 per month or €/$49.99 per year for premium features
Click here to integrate

Inoreader

 

Inoreader Mobile User Interface

New on the scene but billed as a competitor to Flipboard, Inoreader is already worth considering working with. Especially when publishers consider the benefits it offers a user that other platforms don’t the same benefits which we expect will see it become a major player. Conveniently, Inoreader has a night mode so users can read content in the dark without straining their eyes. Content can even be exported and sent to friends who don’t use the app. Inoreader, it seems, thought of everything!

Inoreader is RSS-friendly for browsers and devices that run iOS and Android. Fans of Flipboard will find plenty to love in this aggregator app. The ‘Dive’ feature divides content according to the topic, allowing users to build their own feeds based on what they want to see. They’re also able to save content they won’t have time to read until later. All this happens with visual components, usually images, the centerpiece of each listed story. This decision makes Inoreader intuitive and pleasant to work with.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free
Click here for more information

SmartNews

 

SmartNews Mobile User Interface

The first click on a SmartNews article always brings the user to the publisher’s site. Publishers may also place advertising in SmartNews’ dedicated platform SmartView, and keep 100% of the revenue. Partner publishers are granted access to SmartNews Insights, the platform’s own online dashboard providing in-depth analysis on traffic, social sharing and key content metrics.

In addition to its intuitive channels such as Top News, Politics and Sport, and its publisher hubs for individual titles, SmartNews boasts its unique Channel Plus feature. Channel Plus allows users to add additional tabs dedicated specifically to content from their favorite sources, giving publishers another way to engage their audience through SmartNews’ simple user interface.

Last Summer, announced that it has reached more than 10 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan, and with a 200% user increase year-on-year in the US since its 2014 launch in the country, this user base looks set to increase exponentially.

For full specifications of RSS integration, click here.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Pocket

 

Pocket Mobile and Desktop User Interfaces

Crucially, Pocket differentiates itself by prioritising ‘Save For Later’, a feature that allows users to read content in Pocket offline. As such, Pocket functions as an aggregator run by the user.

Pocket prides itself on making a virtue of long-read material. Founder Nate Weiner told Bloomberg that “Sharing something with a crazy headline isn’t going to make it prominent in Pocket. Our platform just isn’t set up that way. It’s a lot slower”. In 2019, Pocket and its 30 million strong user base were bought by Mozilla, whose Firefox browser now features a prominent Pocket save-for-later button at the top of the window by default. Since this Firefox integration, Pocket has sent publishers in parse.ly’s network 75% more traffic.

Pocket’s Pocket For Publishers dashboard is a suite of free features that help publishers get the most from the app. Trends is an intuitive set of analytics tools that allow publishers to track their content’s progress in the app, Custom Messages allows publishers to create original content that appears whenever an article is saved to Pocket from their site, and Integration allows publishers to add a Pocket button to their own sites and apps, making saving content to Pocket as simple as possible.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free basic version, paid subscriptions, starting at $4.99 per month, cut out ads and boost storage space
Click here to integrate

AP News

 

AP News iPad and Mobile User Interface

The Associated Press’ news aggregator app places an emphasis on local, providing users with breaking news from the Associated Press and hundreds of trusted local sources. Its interface may not be as glamorous as some others on this list, but with good reason: it’s an excellent news source for users who want plain facts laid bare.

Local publishers should take note. Like Apple News, the AP News app aims to spotlight local publishers’ coverage of local stories that go national, as opposed to that of the nation’s biggest news titles. The app seamlessly transitions these stories to publishers’ own sites, boosting traffic.

Users can customise their news feeds to follow specific topics and publishers as they appear in developing stories. Users may also enable push notifications to receive real-time updates from the app, another booster of traffic for publishers. These updates can now also be shared through Apple Watch.

Compatability: iOS, WatchOS, Android
Price: free
Click here for more information

Microsoft News

 

Microsoft News Mobile User Interface

No list of news aggregators would be complete without the inclusion of Microsoft News, formerly MSN, launched in its current iteration in 2018. The coinciding announcement said: “We work with more than a thousand premium publishers and more than 3,000 brands in all major global markets – like USA Today, The New York Times, FOX News, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, BBC News, Kyodo News, and many more – to aggregate the best news, videos, photos and other content and deliver it, for free, to people all over the world.”

One of the biggest benefits of the platform for publishers is its curation process. Like Apple News, Microsoft News enlists a combination of artificial intelligence and human editorial curation to surface great content. Currently, Microsoft has in excess of 800 editors working in 50 locations worldwide, to ensure the accuracy of local reportage. Every day, Microsoft News receives around 100,000 pieces of content from its publishing partners. Its AI then scans the content to understand dimensions like freshness, category, topic type, opinion content and potential popularity. It presents it for our editors, who decide what content will receive optimal placement on the app’s core pages, like the Top Stories section.

Rob Bennett, Microsoft News’ editor in chief, said the following:

“We believe that a free, well-funded press is a critical part of our social fabric and are proud to partner with the world’s best news brands, offering a business model that gives people access, at no-cost, to trustworthy news and provides a sustainable source of revenue for publishers. In just the past four years we’ve delivered more than $600 million back to our publishers, enabling them to focus on what they do best: quality journalism.”

So, if you’re a publisher wondering how to boost your chances of getting featured, Microsoft News’ editorial team use the words “diverse, credible and well-rounded” to describe the content they look to promote. Diversity is important to the Microsoft News team, who carefully compose the app’s pages daily to include multiple sides to a story and believe considered opinion pieces help a user to better understand a story.  

Compatibility: Windows 10 or higher, XBox One, Windows 8 mobile or higher
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Other News Aggregation Platforms:

 

 

To clarify, each of these apps can be joined by simply providing an RSS feed. We’ve mainly included apps whose user base is already significantly large as to make it a major player in this industry, and one or two new apps who show enough promise to assure they’ll be in that position in the near future.