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Apple News preparing for launch in Canada

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Apple News is readying a launch in Canada, The Logic has learned.

Apple Inc.’s mobile news aggregation app is also recruiting editorial staff who will curate what Canadian stories are featured in the app, which has been a major driver of traffic for U.S. digital publishers.

Currently only available in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, Apple News was launched by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company in September 2015. Apple News displays stories based on topics and interests picked by users, creating a personalized news feed based on their reading preferences.

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Users also see stories chosen by a dedicated editorial team. Last summer, the company hired Lauren Kern, executive editor of New York Magazine, to be Apple News’ first editor-in-chief. Michael Rundle, former editor of Wired.co.uk, was hired as an editor at the company’s London office in 2016.

The Logic spoke to a journalist who was approached by an Apple headhunter who told them the company is looking to hire Canadian editors in the coming months. The journalist said no firm launch date was discussed, but that Apple seemed keen to get the app running in Canada within the next year.

Talking Point

The launch of a news aggregation product in Canada comes on the heels of Apple’s purchase of magazine app Texture from a consortium of publishers, including Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith and Toronto-based Rogers Media. The popular news app is in part designed to root out online disinformation, an area where social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have faced a reckoning in recent years.

Apple is requiring potential candidates to sign non-disclosure agreements to proceed with the recruiting process, according to the source. They said the headhunter, who is based outside of Canada, had clearly worked to familiarize themselves with Canadian publications.

Apple did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

The Information reported in February about a Slack channel where editors from publishers pitch Apple News’ dozen-strong U.S. team in the hope of getting their stories featured, and said that, at times, the app has generated over half of Vox.com’s daily traffic. An executive at a major U.S. television network told The Information that the app drove as much as 60 per cent of traffic for some of its stories.

Apple executives have said that the curated approach to its news app is in part designed to root out online disinformation, an area where social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have faced a reckoning in recent years. “We’ll always steer clear of rumor and propaganda,” Kern wrote in a letter to readers earlier this year, in a lighthearted reference to competitors.

In March, Apple agreed to buy magazine app Texture from a consortium of publishers, including Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith and Toronto-based Rogers Media.

Bloomberg reported a month later that Apple plans to launch a news subscription service that will integrate Texture technology and share revenue with magazine publishers within the next year. Apple News editorial staff are said to be working on the project.

Apple News has forged partnerships with top media brands including CNN, The New York Times and BuzzFeed.

Earlier this year, it launched a featured section providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics, in partnership with NBC Olympics, which included original content from Apple News editors and custom graphics made for the app.

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U.S. users currently have access to a section in the app devoted to the country’s midterm elections, which features content from Fox News, Vox, The Washington Post, Axios and Politico.

Not all partnerships with news organizations have panned out well, however. Several publishers have said they make less money off engagements from news aggregation apps than they do from direct traffic.

The Guardian, which was among the first publishers to join Apple News when it launched in the U.K. in October 2015, backed out in April 2017. The British newspaper also withdrew from Facebook’s Instant Article feature, in both cases citing its “editorial and commercial objectives.”