NewsNow: What publishers need to know about the UK-made news aggregator

NewsNow is a website that aggregates content from various publishers, offering its users a constantly updating feed of breaking news headlines from 22 countries and pooling content by category and trending topics.

The service launched in 1998 in the UK with fewer than ten news sources, but today spans thousands of publications both big and small, national and regional. It remains independently owned and founder-led.

Newsnow.co.uk claims to receive 11m monthly unique users and drive 70m article views per month to publishers’ websites. It only shares headlines – no images or copy – and a publication byline. Users are taken to the publisher’s own website when they click on headlines, paywall or not.

Half of NewsNow’s audience is from the UK, with English-speaking nations from Nigeria and Kenya to the US and Australia also contributing significant numbers. General news and sport make up the majority of its content.

The platform plans to create editions for different markets – including in other languages – after already launching NewsNow.com to aggregate content for a specifically US audience.

A revamp of the UK website is also planned for early next year.

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The basics

NewsNow
What is it? News aggregator
Where is it available? Website only
How much does it cost readers? Free
Audience size 11m monthly unique in UK
Number of publications on board 14,000
Pros for publishers High editorial standards
Cons for publishers No revenue sharing

How it works

NewsNow uses an algorithm to trawl up to 170,000 URLs from websites belonging to its source publishers throughout the day, every day, and aggregate and categorise content on its own site.

Founder and chief executive Struan Bartlett told Press Gazette: “When those articles are found, our technology is evaluating each one against editorially-driven criteria, and where it meets our standards it’s added into the relevant sections of our website.”

A team of seven editorial staff (NewsNow employs 20 staff in total) act as a sort of quality control and final check on the content being aggregated and also liaise directly with publishers.

Said Bartlett: “Most of the headlines that you’ll see on the site are there because of decisions directly made by our editorial team of journalists, who are guiding the hand of the technology and select which articles go on which pages.”

Credibility and quality are important watchwords for NewsNow. To join its network, publications must meet rigorous criteria, including that they write “original and substantial articles”, “substantiate claims and use credible sources”, and “proof-read and fact-check” their work.

If these criteria are met, publishers content is included free of charge. Some sources are added, others have requested to join.

Show me the money

NewsNow is funded by advertising, mainly display ads and some classified. There is currently no revenue-sharing deal for publishers, only what they can make from the traffic sent back to them.

Said Bartlett: “Publishers get the benefit of all the traffic we send them which they’re free to monetise how they want and build whatever relationship with the users we send them that they want.

“Equally, we don’t charge publishers to be on the platform. So there is no financial relationship with the publishers whatsoever.”

He said the editorial independence gained from not charging publishers was important to the platform, leaving it free to “choose the publications we think are most suitable for the audience”.

The pros

NewsNow is free both to the publisher and reader. It has been operating for 24 years and boasts a large user base.

Probably NewsNow’s biggest selling point is that it is a dedicated news website, with high editorial standards, and one that offers a UK counterpoint to the US tech giants, but on a smaller scale. “News is not just a side business for us,” said Bartlett, pointing to the likes of Apple News, Google and Facebook. “News is our heart and the reason why we exist.”

Bartlett added: “Apart from the headline that we publish, users can’t consume a publisher’s content on the NewsNow platform – they need to visit the publisher’s website. We like that, in the sense that it keeps the publisher in control, with the opportunity to build direct relationships with the users we send them. And I know that a lot of publishers are bothered about some of the other platforms trying to take control of the relationship.

“Ultimately we don’t think that’s good for news because we think news is fundamentally public interest journalism, it exists to serve the public. Therefore we’ve definitely got some concerns about when big platforms are getting in the way of the relationships between users and the news they consume, rather than helping facilitate those relationships between the users and the people producing the news they consume.”

NewsNow’s aggregation model gives equal prominence to publishers both big and small, offering yet another channel to drive traffic for larger titles but a lifeblood to smaller publishers, whose content might otherwise not find an audience of such a scale.

The diversity of news sources available on NewsNow is important to Bartlett, who said the platform “exists to promote and support independent journalism from a plurality of news media”.

He added: “We do have a much broader range of publications featured than other aggregation platforms, not just the big newsbrands and broadcasters, but this huge diversity of small, medium-sized news organisations, independent journalists, bloggers, even civil society organisations like charity and trade unions, government institutions and much more.

“So there’s an incredibly rich and varied array of news. News has to be credible, but that doesn’t mean it has to come from a traditional news organisation, someone who owns a printing press – we don’t look at it like that.”

One of the advantages from its diversity of sources is that NewsNow users will see and click on content from newsbrands they might not otherwise consider reading.

The cons

NewsNow’s service is only available through its website. There is no app or other digital platform to help drive clicks. There is also little to distinguish news content on the site, which is in plain text.

There remains no revenue-sharing deal with publishers, which does not look set to change anytime soon, although Bartlett said NewsNow is “exploring how we can move towards a more sustainable future for public interest news and journalism,” which is something he personally advocates.

The verdict

NewsNow is an aggregator with genuine sympathy for news publishers of any size, offering quality content through a dedicated website that is simple to use and navigate. Press Gazette understands a number of publishers use the site in their newsrooms to monitor breaking stories.

With no sharing of ad revenue, NewsNow joins the ranks of most other aggregators who rely on news content for income but share none of it with the publishers who made it, but it does offer a genuine service of use to news consumers and industry professionals alike.

[Read more: Press Gazette’s other Platform Profiles include Shutterstock, Apple News and Upday from Samsung]

Comments

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