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Apple publicly details Apple News operations: human editing is more important than algorithms

via:博客园     time:2018/11/21 19:32:45     readed:708


Lauren · Cohen

Lead: The US "New York Times" recently published an article, the first time introduced Apple's low-key operation of news business & mdash; — Apple News. Unlike the technology industry's current mainstream strategy for news distribution, Apple values ​​the role of manual editing and employs a large number of experienced traditional media editors to run the business. In Apple's view, such an operation effectively avoids problems such as false information and political biases that plague other technology companies. However, media practitioners still doubt the role of Apple News. They believe that Apple has not played a big role in helping traditional media to increase revenues. It may also rely on Apple's channel to give its lifeline to Apple.

The following is the full text of the article:

This year, many of Apple's employees moved into the new headquarters in Cupertino, California, with a total construction cost of $5 billion and sparkling glass walls. But a mile west, in the old Apple campus on the 1 Infinite Loop, a project that is in keeping with Silicon Valley is underway.

In a quiet corner of the third floor, Apple is building a series of newsrooms. About a dozen former journalists occupy several uncharacteristic offices and are doing the work that some other technology companies have handed over to software for years: picking news for tens of millions of people.

One morning in late August, Apple News Editor-in-Chief Lauren & Middot; Lauren Kern and a deputy editor huddled together to discuss the five stories on the company's three-year news app. The app is pre-installed on every iPhone in the US, UK and Australia.

On the same day, many national news websites reported that the Ministry of Justice supported the launch of affirmative action against Harvard University. “For us, this is a good grip,” said Cohen’s deputy, who was an editor in The New York Times. For privacy reasons, Apple asked not to disclose his name. He and Cohen quickly agreed to make it the headline news of the day. After reading a few versions, they chose the Washington Post report because they said it provided the most detailed background on the importance of the news. Explanation.

Another story has a wide coverage: the Florida state governor's race on the first day of race. “So we are thinking, how to report this incident responsibly? ” The deputy said. & ldquo; Now in the United States, race is a sensitive topic. "The two chose a fascinating article in the Miami Herald, including comments, backgrounds, and discussions about them.

Later, they also selected the McCain memorial service provided by CBS, SB Nation Sports News about the encounter between the big and small sisters at the US Open, and Bloomberg's opening of the Sydney-London 20-hour direct flight route. Feature article. Cohen said her team aims to combine headline news, easier features, and sometimes longer surveys, just like the front page of a newspaper. They mainly selected content from the list of articles compiled by three editors in New York that morning. These editors need to carefully read the homepages and mobile reminders of major news sites across the country, as well as dozens of news from publications.

“We have given great attention and thinking to the selected content,” said Cohen, 43, who was a former executive editor of New York Magazine. “This is what many people want to see. We take this seriously. A responsibility. ”

Apple has entered the chaotic world of news, and about 90 million people regularly read the service. Although Google, Facebook, and Twitter have been closely scrutinized for the effects of excessive information dissemination & mdash;— sometimes even harmful ——, Apple has so far been free from controversy. One of the main reasons is that Silicon Valley peers rely on machines and algorithms to pick headlines, and Apple uses people like Cohen.

This former reporter has quietly become one of the most influential people in the English media. The stories she and her assistants chose for Apple News often earned more than a million visits.

Their work has complicated the debate between Silicon Valley giants as media or technology companies. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have always insisted that they are tech entities, not arbiters of the truth. Facebook's CEO Mark · Mark Zuckerberg and others have been heavily betting on artificial intelligence to help them sort out fake news and facts. however,Apple has no hesitation in another direction — — people-oriented, and show the world that the sensitivity of the media can coexist with high-tech companies.

Apple's strategy is not risk free. Although the company has long used manual management of app stores, the news is more controversial. This company, known for its secrecy culture, has hardly explained to the outside world who is picking news for Apple News and how these people avoid prejudice.

Recently, after extensive negotiations on the terms of the interview, Apple agreed for the first time to let the "New York Times" reporter publicly disclose the way Apple News operates.

Apple has a grand plan for the product. The company allowed publishers to run ads in the app and help some sign new users, a move that cut product revenue by 30%. People who asked not to be named said that soon, the company plans to integrate dozens of magazines into the app at a fixed monthly fee, which is a bit like the news version of Netflix. Informed sources disclosed that Apple also hopes to package access to some of the daily news publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal into the app.

Apple executives are ambitiously claiming that they want to help save the journalism industry. Cohen said: "People are deeply aware that the booming free media is vital to the public who are eager to know, and the informed public is vital to an effective democracy, and Apple News can play a role. ”

But there are signs that Apple is not an industry savior. Many publishers rarely advertise on Apple News, even if Apple underwrites 30% of the subscriptions.After experiencing the disruptive destruction of Google and Facebook in their industry, many publications are cautious about Apple, and executives at nine news organizations say many of them are afraid of offending the trillion-dollar company. The giant refused to comment. Some people are optimistic that Apple may become a better partner than other technology giants, but they are skeptical about making Apple a reader.


“What does Apple give, and what it can take,” said Bill Grueskin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, who was the editor of publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. He said that once readers receive training on getting news from Apple, news organizations will realize that "you will be at the mercy of Apple." ”

“ Thoroughly crazy land”

For decades, newspapers have been one of the most direct industries for customers: the big newspaper tabloids report, print them out and send them to your door.

Then the Internet came, Google and Facebook became the middlemen of publishers and readers, and at the same time, used this position to dominate digital advertising, drawing from the newspaper's advertising business model.

The rise of Google and Facebook in the news arena, partly driven by algorithms that provide massive amounts of information and can publish millions of articles from thousands of sources to billions of users. These algorithms are primarily intended to allow users to participate and click, which means they tend to promote posts that attract clicks and sharing, also known as sensational hotspots. Sites that are marginalized and biased are pushed to the front row, and they often produce content that is misleading, party-oriented, or distorted.

(A Google spokesperson said the company is preparing to avoid the wrong information by screening publishers before allowing them to enter Google News. She added that Google will begin to help news agency subscription services this year. A Facebook spokesperson said, The company helps publishers reach out to more readers, earn advertising revenue and sell subscriptions. She said that Facebook's recent algorithm has reduced the frequency of “fishing clicks” pages.)

In this environment, Apple broke into the media territory. At the end of 2015, iPhone makers released a free news app that lets users choose the publications they like. The user chooses the favorite media according to his or her own interests, and the application can give information flow of related stories.

This statement did not attract people's attention. Three months later, Apple announced an unusual new feature: launching hand-selected boutique information without relying on algorithms.

After the 2016 presidential election, Americans learned that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were used by party members and Russian agents to spread split messages to voters and use algorithms to play games. All this has prompted people to examine the impact of business on the media and society. In order to better manage their websites, the above high-tech companies promise to hire more people and use more algorithms.

Apple said it still believes in human role.

"We are responsible for the content," Cohen's listing, Apple's application director Roger · Roger Rosner said when talking about Apple News: "We are not trying to make it a fanatic Ground. ”

By "sniffing test”

In order to create a newsroom, Apple needs a reporter.Since 2015, they have dug up editorial teams from the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and the sports news media Bleacher Report.To lead them, an Apple recruiter found a rising star & mdash from the magazine world in New York; — Cohen.

Cohen was born in Ardmore, Okla., his father was a lawyer and later became a federal judge. His mother was a former reporter for The Daily Ardmoreite. In 1996, when she was at Rice University, she started her journalism work in the weekly magazine Houston Press. In 2004, she joined New York Magazine as an editor.

"New York Magazine" editor Adam · Adam Moss said when he talked about Cohen's news judgment, story design and work ethics: "You usually don't know everything, but she did it." ”

In 2010, Cohen joined the New York Times Magazine as an associate editor. Four years later, Moss took her back to the New York Magazine as an executive editor. At the time, she hosted the magazine's extensive report on allegations that Bill & Codby had raped women and edited reports on Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and his history of sexual harassment.

Moss said that Cohen came to the office last year and said that Apple was looking for a job with her.

“I told her, & lsquo; Why are you doing this? & rsquo;& rdquo; Moss recalls. “Lauren has a writing background and artistic skills. Entering a company that is truly engineer-led is a very frustrating thing. ”

Cohen said that this is an opportunity to help the journalism industry on the other hand; of course, entering the technology industry can also raise salaries, but she is not willing to talk about income. She moved from Brooklyn to the most expensive place in Silicon Valley. She bought the car for the first time in the past 13 years, bought a golden retriever named Leo for her son, and bought a spacious big house, backyard. There are also chicken houses. (She plans to vacate the house.)


Apple News team location

Throughout the interview, Cohen looked very relaxed, but he was quite concerned about the facts. Cohen’s friends and former colleagues said that she is highly concerned with two things: one is the son and the other is the job.

Noreen Malone, a former colleague of New York Magazine, said: “She has the potential to be a supervisor. In many places where I work, journalists are often poor managers. Cohen is always clear-headed. ”

Now Cohen leads a team of 30 people who have worked in the news industry before, with teams spread across Sydney, London, New York and Silicon Valley. Every day, the team consults the news on the Internet, flips through 100-200 paper media reports, and then argues to see which reports should be highlighted.

In the end, the team will pick out 5 articles and recommend them in the app. The most important 2 will be displayed in the left window of the iPhone main screen. In addition, Apple News will have special reports, and the style is a bit like a magazine. News is updated at least 5 times a day, depending on the news. Before the arrival of the peak on the east coast of the United States, the London editors had to pick out the first set of content, and then turn to New York and Cupertino to take over.

Cohen said that she sees precision more important than speed. In August, at the Jacksonville, Florida e-sports competition, a 24-year-old gunman shot two people and made a lot of news on Google News, Facebook and Twitter, saying that the gunmen hated President Trump. This detail is sensational and attracts many People click and report spread quickly.

But on the Apple News platform, the main report did not mention this detail. Cohen told colleagues that special caution should be taken when a large-scale shooting incident occurs. She said: "Every time there is a shooting incident, there will always be people who say: & lsquo; The murderer is related to a terrorist organization. & rsquo; The results prove not true. ” Cohen’s judgment is correct: a few days later, the gunman’s hatred of Trump proved to be wrong.

In December, ABC News reported that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller investigated the Trump campaign team's relationship with Russia, and Apple News did not recommend this report. ABC News claims that former national security adviser Michael · Michael Flynn is preparing to testify that Trump had appointed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 election. The news detonated the network, and Google, Facebook, and Twitter all recommended the report, and ABC News later withdrew the report.

Cohen said that she and the team did not recommend the report, mainly because everyone did not believe it. why? Cohen explained that there is no formula for embedding an algorithm, just because it fails to pass the test. Cohen said: "I mean, you read a story, and then it can't pass the &squo; sniff test & rsquo;. ”

Cohen said,When recommending content to readers, Apple News always seeks to show the two factions of the political debate.In June of this year, Apple opened a special area for the mid-term elections, with emphasis on Fox News and Vox, which are Apple's partners. Apple claims that there are many people who read left and right reports in Apple News.

Real-life editors may have prejudice, or at least be criticized for being biased. In recent years, conservative politicians and scholars (including Trump) have repeatedly criticized Google, Twitter and Facebook, saying they suppress the right voice. In order to smash criticism, companies let the algorithm control the whole situation.

In 2014, Facebook hired real-life employees to select content for “Trending Topics”, which will be highlighted on the site. In 2016, former Facebook employees revealed that there was a bias in the selection. After 3 months, Facebook cut the manpower editor and handed the selection work to the algorithm.

Algorithms are the only way to resolve prejudice. Cohen does not agree with this argument, because bias can also be written into algorithmic code. For example, algorithms can give the media a democratic or conservative label. Cohen believes that talent is the only choice to resolve prejudice.

Cohen said: "We pay close attention to the news cycle and the importance level. For now, the only way to eliminate prejudice is. ”

It's not that all Apple News stories are hand-selected. The algorithm will recommend messages to the user from news sources or topics of interest to the user, such as sports, cars or entertainment. The Cohen editorial team will pick the story and there will be 5 messages below the story, which are recommended by the algorithm.

Unable to save journalism

Apple executives once said that in the Internet era, users consume news in a way that causes illness, and Apple News can treat these diseases. Not only that, it will become the lifeline of the news industry and become the lifeline of democracy.

Rosner believes: "From the beginning, Cook has said that Apple has the responsibility to help the news industry, it is the foundation of democracy. “


Lauren · Cohen

But in the newsroom, everyone is skeptical about the tech giant’s claim to save the news industry.

Executives at the nine major news organizations have said that they do want Apple News to help the media increase revenue, but be cautious about it. Some large news sites pointed out that Apple News quickly became a key source of traffic, sometimes even surpassing Facebook. This year's Facebook adjustment algorithm led to a significant drop in publisher exposure and a sudden drop in the number of forwards.

"New York" product director Daniel · Daniel Hallac also said that since December, traffic from Apple News has doubled, now accounting for 12% of the magazine's website traffic. The proportion of Facebook traffic dropped to the third place, accounting for only 8%. The proportion of Google traffic increased slightly, accounting for about half of the website traffic. He said: "I am optimistic about Apple News. ”

Despite this, publishers are still dissatisfied with the status quo. Apple News readers generally only stay in Apple's own app, it is difficult for news organizations to obtain user data and understand users, and it is difficult to increase advertising revenue. Last month, the online magazine "Slate" published an article saying that in the past year, readers from Apple News increased by 2 times, but the website made 50,000 views and made more money than Apple News's 6 million page views per month. More.

Apple News director Eddy Cue said that if there is publisher content in Apple News, publishers can place ads next to the content, and the revenue generated by these ads is entirely owned by the publisher. Kui said: "This move is quite rare. & rdquo; He also said that many large publishers use this feature to increase revenue. Apple also sends publishers advertising, which is only 30% off.

News organizations complain that sending ads on Apple News is a bit complicated, and advertisers are not interested because of missing customer data. The reason for this problem, Slate believes that there is another reason: Apple's advertising, but the revenue generated is not high. Apple's recent adjustment policy has made it easier for publishers to send their own ads, but Kui admits that Apple is not doing well in advertising, or that interest is not great.

Apple News didn't help too much for small publishers, which is another issue. Conan Gallaty, digital director of The Tampa Bay Times, Florida's largest newspaper, said that in July, 79% of the newspaper's off-site network traffic came from Google, 20% from Facebook, and Apple. The share is less than 1%.

Galati believes that Facebook, Google and Apple all prefer national media and stagnate regional media, but Apple's preference is particularly serious.

Cohen responded that if local news can attract the interest of readers across the country, they will pay attention to it, and Cohen has told employees to pay attention to such news. Cohen also said that when they reported on the California fire, they selected "The Sacramento Bee" article, a shipwreck accident in Missouri, they used the report of The Kansas City Star. Despite this, Apple News prefers national media most of the time.

Kui said Apple hopes to help publishers increase their subscriptions. Many iPhone users enter credit card information, which can be booked with a fingerprint password.

Concerns still exist. In the first year of paid subscription, 30% of revenue is owned by Apple, and 15% is paid every year. Google only takes 5%, and Facebook is not a penny. Apple refused to hand over the subscriber's email address, but Google and Facebook were not so ruthless.

For this reason, some news industry executives believe that Apple News may take away future subscribers, resulting in a decline in revenue for news organizations and a reduction in customer data.

Kui said that Apple mainly provides services to customers who do not subscribe, and the share of subscription revenue is also very small. The revenue is mainly used to offset costs. Kui said: "It's not a very profitable business." ”

In April, Apple acquired Texture, an app that allows readers to read about 200 magazines for $10 a month. According to sources, Apple is now ready to put the Texture service into Apple News to expand its coverage.

Apple has a lot of ambitions, and the team of traditional journalists is still expanding. One day in the future, Apple may make its own news, no longer satisfied with collecting aggregates. Is there such a possibility?

Rosena said: "We will not talk about future plans, but homemade news is not within the current plan. ”

is it possible? Rosena replied: "Who knows?" ”

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