Today social news reader News360 announced the beta launch of its publisher program, which will give publishers a branded presence on the company’s suite of mobile and web news readers. Today’s launch includes 27 partner publishers, including FOX Sports, The Atlantic, and The Chicago Tribune. The company currently delivers 10 million articles a month from over 30,000 sources, and has close to two million downloads across all its apps.
The company, which was founded in 2010 and has offices in Russia and California, debuted a major redesign to its iPad app this summer to focus on personalization, attempting to look at users’ social activity and serve them related articles and content. Since the redesign, the company reports it has doubled the number of articles read in the app, which is available for a variety of tablets, iPhones and Android phones, and on the web.
Today’s publisher program launch means many of the sources that were already available through News360 will now have a branded presence on the site. It’s similar to programs from competitors Flipboard, Zite, and Pulse, whose partners include The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. While news sources don’t need to be part of the publisher program to be available to News360 readers, articles from partner publishers have their branding, and users can follow publishers to get all their content.
Founder Roman Karachinsky said it’s a way to further build up engagement for publishers, while also helping users discover new sources, since partners will be promoted to users when they add topics and sources. “From the very beginning we were always thinking about ‘what’s the value we’re creating for publishers, and how do we make sure they get something out of that value,'” Karachinsky said. “The overall purpose [of today's launch] is to drive more traffic, more readership, to our partners.” He also said they’ll be adding more features to the program, and today the focus is just on getting partners in various subject areas, and on branding each source.
Some have criticized News360’s lack of a business model, and until today Karachinsky seemed unconcerned about it, commenting on a CNET article that “I don’t think that the fact that we aren’t focused on the business model is in any way a bad thing,” adding that their focus was on creating a “beautiful experience.” Despite that focus on user experience, today’s Publisher Program is opening up the door to monetization. Karachinsky said they’ll likely debut their strategy in 2013, and while he wouldn’t go into specifics, he said it would be more similar to Flipboard’s advertising model than Pulse’s subscription-based model.
“Our goal is to to try and not be like Flipboard, who are basically trying to take this premium advertising and map it onto the iPad,” he said. “We want to find the middle ground, we want to realize something new, a new form of promoting ads and promoting content.”
While it faces competition from popular news readers like Flipboard and Pulse, the Karachinsky said its artificial intelligence-powered personalization engine sets it apart (the technology started as a news monitoring and reputation management platform that was developed for government use in Russia, and is still in use today). Also similar to Techmeme the app tries to cut down on duplication by only displaying an article once, and then linking to all the other outlets that have written about it.
“The goal is not to just show you the stuff you’re already familiar with, our goal is really to understand what your interests are, and then find the best content out there, it doesn’t really matter what source it comes from,” he said.
Along with its iPad relaunch this summer, the company also updated its Android tablet apps last week. Today’s publisher launch is available for iPad and selected Android tablets, with updates for the rest of their available apps and web versions planned for the coming weeks and months. The company, which is backed by VC investment and a $1.5 million grant from Russia’s Skolkovo Innovation Centre, is looking to get in on the monetization game, and while it doesn’t have anything to announce on that front today, it’s a step in the right direction.
Disclosure: BetaKit is one of the publishers participating in the News360 publisher program, and is also one of Pulse’s publisher partners.