Apple squares up to Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP: Apple News Format now open to all

Even bloggers can now sign up to publish content to Apple's clipboard-like Apple News app.

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Apple News app sports a new graphical analytics dashboard for views and shares.

Image: Apple

Some seven months after launching Apple News, Apple is finally ready to let more than a select few major publishers use its platform to distribute news media.

Until now the News app, which is baked into iOS 9, and its custom publishing tool known as Apple News Format, has been limited to 100 publishing partners, such as the New York Times, Conde Nast, CNN, and Bloomberg.

Apple is now opening the format to any publisher, pending its approval. One of the advantages of the format is the additional metrics Apple provides on user engagement.

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However, as the Wall Street Journal reported in January, a bug in the system left publishers and Apple in the dark on specific reader numbers. Apple could only say it had 40 million users overall.

Smaller publishers outside the News beta could publish to Apple News by adding RSS feeds, although that method lacked metrics. Also, the Apple News format allows publishers to set up advertising using Apple's iAd system.

Apple announced the Apple News Format for all publishers on Tuesday, describing it as a "custom JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) document format" for content in News.

"With Apple News Format, you can create signature content for News. Beautiful typography, rich photo galleries, videos, and fun animations bring your articles to life. You can author once, and News will optimize your content for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, so your readers will have a great experience no matter which device they're using," the company says.

One catch for publishers that use RSS is that if they decide to switch to Apple News Format, their RSS feeds will stop updating in News. "All future content must be published in Apple News Format," Apple notes.

Apple also announced a new graphical analytics dashboard for views and shares, which can slice data by time, location, or a specific date.

As for the analytics data itself, it seems Apple fixed its metrics bug at some point before February 15, the date at which the analytics data begins.

Also, since Apple News is only available in the US, UK, and Australia, the data is limited to those markets. It offers both channel-based and article-based data on things such as unique viewers, time spent engaged with an article, and shares

Apple News joins similar efforts by Facebook with Instant Articles and Google's AMP, all of which aim to improve the news experience on mobile, cut load times, and deliver metrics that publishers can use to enhance advertising.

The wider availability of Apple News Format also coincides with the impending launch of iOS 9.3, which supports personalization features on Apple News as well as for some features in the Apple News Ad format announced this week.

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