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A pair of digital news companies are teaming up, with PressReader acquiring News360.

PressReader was founded back in 1999 as Newspaper Direct. It now operates a platform that converts newspapers and magazines into digital formats, while offering a $ 29.99 monthly subscription that provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 of those titles.

News360, meanwhile, is relatively youthful, having been founded in 2010. It’s also created a news aggregation app, but the announcement makes it sound like PressReader was particularly interested in the company’s NativeAI technology for analytics and personalization.

In a statement, PressReader CEO Alex Kroogman suggested that News360’s technology will be used to improve PressReader’s consumer experience and publisher tools:

In a world where news fatigue is a real and growing problem, and media literacy a global concern, it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the trusted content they need in an engaging environment. By understanding each person’s interests, and building advanced data science systems around content analytics, we will be able to give our millions of readers the trusted media they want, how they want it, when they want it, and where they want it, while building more audience intelligence into the data that drives our publisher and brand partnerships.

The News360 team will be joining PressReader and working out of the acquiring company’s Vancouver headquarters.

News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky told me via email that the combined company will continue to support the News360 app and “develop it alongside the PressReader apps,” but he added, “In the short-term[,] the team will be focused on adding News360 tech into PressReader, so I wouldn’t expect big changes to the News360 app until we’re done with this.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, News360 has raised a total of $ 7.5 million from investors including Ordell Capital.


TechCrunch

A $ 28 million financing has made SmartNews, an AI-powered news aggregation app, a unicorn.

Japan Post Capital has led the Series E round, which brings the company’s total investment to $ 116 million and pushes its valuation to $ 1.1 billion. Existing investors in SmartNews include Development Bank of Japan, SMBC Venture Capital and Japan Co-Invest L.P.

The company, founded in Tokyo in 2012, boasts 20 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan. Growing at a rate of 500% per year, its audience checks into the app for a mix of political, sports, global and entertainment news curated for each individual reader. To make money, the company sells inline advertising, video ads and deals with publishers to sell ads against “SmartViews,” its equivalent of Google’s AMP or Facebook’s Instant Articles

SmartNews has nearly 400 U.S. publishing partners including The Associated Press and Bloomberg. It competes with the likes of Apple, which unveiled Apple News + earlier this year, a subscription news product that offers access to more than 300 magazines and newspapers for $ 9.99 per month.

SmartNews says it will use the infusion of capital to expand its global footprint.

“We are very pleased with our strong progress in the United States,” SmartNews co-founder and chief executive officer Ken Suzuki said in a statement. “We will continue to share our vision of informed, balanced media consumption with our current and future users in the U.S. and all over the world.”


TechCrunch

The Google News tab is getting a makeover. Google announced this week, by way of a tweet, a significant redesign of the Google.com News tab on the desktop, which will organize articles in a card-style layout, while also better emphasizing publisher names. The end result makes Google News more aesthetically pleasing, but it comes at the expense of information density.

To be clear, the changes here are focused on the News tab of Google.com — not the dedicated Google News product at news.google.com. You land on the News tab when you search for a term on Google.com, and then click over to “News” to see the latest coverage instead of Google’s list of search results.

As the preview of the redesign shows, news articles are currently organized in a compact list of links, allowing you to see several headlines around a single topic with just a glance. This design, admittedly, is a bit old-school — but it works.

Within the stack of links, the headline is blue, the publisher is green, and the articles are labeled as “In-depth” or “Opinion,” when relevant. There are small photo thumbnails by the lead story, with other publishers’ links underneath appearing as only text.

Screen Shot 2019 07 12 at 11.16.03 AM

 

The updated design is more readable as articles are spaced out and placed in cards, similar to the main Google News product. There’s more white space and longer previews of each story, as well.

But the change means you’re seeing far fewer results on the screen before you have to scroll down.

 

The updated News tab makes it more obvious where the news is coming from, because publishers’ names are given more prominence. They also get their logo next to the headline, so it’s easier to identify your favorite news outlets with a glance. This is reminiscent of the recent mobile redesign for Google Search, which also put increased attention on the publishers by featuring them at the top of a link alongside their logo.

In addition to providing you with a set of News search results, the redesigned tab includes a new carousel labeled “People also searched for” that points you to other relevant news based on your search query.

Not everyone is thrilled about the update, given it makes it more difficult to quickly scan a number of headlines at once. And because there are fewer publishers’ articles on the first screen, traffic to those “below the fold” will likely drop.

Google says the changes will roll out over the next couple of weeks.


TechCrunch

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