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By Abhay V
Microsoft rebrands its news service to Microsoft Start
by Abhay V
Microsoft today announced Microsoft Start, a rebrand of its MSN News and Microsoft News services, unifying the offerings under a single brand. This new name will replace the existing Microsoft News and MSN News names across the areas that it is present in, such as in the Edge browser, and more.
Microsoft Start can be accessed from Edge and Chrome at the MicrosoftStart.com website, on mobile via native Android and iOS apps, and on Windows 10 and Windows 11 through the News and Interests column and news widgets, respectively. The service is also what powers the new tab page content in Microsoft Edge. Considering that the branding change has just begun rolling out, the Play Store listing is yet to be updated, and those running the Microsoft News app will receive an update that brings the branding change, which is the case with both Android and iOS versions.
As for the service itself, there is not much that is new in the way of features. Just like the current experience, news articles are curated for users and adapt based on preferences. The firm says that it curates articles from “over a thousand global premium publishing brands” which are tailored to users' interests through both AI algorithms and moderators. For those that want to personalize their feed manually, the firm allows them to select topics of interest through the Personalize option.
In addition to news items, Start will also provide users with cards relating to weather, finance, sports, navigation information, and more, just like before. Unsurprisingly, preferences set by the user on the desktop sync with the mobile apps connected to the same Microsoft account.
While Microsoft Start is currently just a branding change, it will be interesting to see if there are any new features and/or capabilities added to the service.
By Usama Jawad96
Google fined €500 million in France over lack of agreement with news publishers
by Usama Jawad
Google being fined in France is nothing new. Just last month, it reached a €220 million ($268 million) settlement with the country's antitrust watchdog over ad practices. Now, it has been fined more than double that amount, as it has been slapped with a €500 million ($592 million) penalty for failing to comply with the orders of French regulators.
The issue relates to Google failing to reach an agreement with France's news publishers as to how much it would pay them for displaying their content in its News Showcase program. For those unaware, Google News Showcase is a licensing program which allows publishers to monetize their content through "enhanced storytelling experiences". In some cases, Google may also pay publishers to expose paywalled articles so readers can read them for free. This not only allows publishers to reach a wider audience while being financially compensated but also enables consumers to view content that may not have been accessible to them otherwise. It is available in a few countries including the UK, Argentina, Australia, and India, among others.
Basically, French authorities imposed the fine because Google did not manage to reach an agreement with the country's top news publishers like APIG, SEPM, and AFP despite orders from regulators to hold talks within three months after a publisher requests them. The news agencies say that talks from Google were not held in good faith.
Apart from paying the hefty fine, Google is also required to present proposals about compensation plans for news agencies within the next two months, or face up to €900,000 ($1.07 million) per day once this deadline expires. The company had the following to say regarding the penalty:
Previous court documents have indicated that Google agreed to pay 121 news publishers a sum of €64 million ($76 million) over a period of three years to put an end to the case, but this offer was clearly not enough for French agencies. It remains to be seen if the tech giant will be able to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with French news outlets within the next couple of months.
By Usama Jawad96
Google News Showcase is now live in India
by Usama Jawad
Apart from presenting news from various publishers to relevant audiences, another responsibility of the Google News initiative is to support local news firms. To that end, the firm has set up relief funds and licensing programs to provide financial compensation to the local news industry in various countries.
Now, Google has announced that it is bringing News Showcase to India.
For those unaware, Google News Showcase is a new licensing program which allows publishers to monetize their content through an "enhanced storytelling experiences". In some cases, Google may also pay publishers to expose paywalled articles so readers can read them for free. This not only allows publishers to reach a wider audience while being financially compensated but also enables consumers to view content that may not have been accessible to them otherwise. The program is available in a few countries including the UK, Argentina, and Australia.
With News Showcase's launch in India, Google is partnering with over 30 Indian publishers such as The Telegraph India, Deccan Herald, ANI, The Hindu Group, and more. Content from these organizations will be presented in dedicated sections in Google News and Discover. As of now, only Hindi and English content will be promoted, but support for other languages will be added soon. Overall, Google News Showcase now supports over 700 publishers across more than a dozen countries where it's available.
That's not all, though. Google has announced several other programs for India as well. These include training 50,000 journalists and journalism students over the next three years and expanding its digital tooling to connect the Indian news industry to fact-checkers. The company went on to say that:
Google says that all of these endeavors will strengthen a diverse news ecosystem and empower publishers to make data-driven decisions as they get access to the company's advanced tooling and technology.
By Laurentiu A.
I have one question for all of you...
What is this ugly, beta, squared, badly pixelated THING on my taskbar?
It says News and interests and yes, I know its a new feature from Microsoft.
How can a billion dollar company, with thousands of employees and rich history in software, design this?
The sun icon looks very bad, the text that displays the weather is blurry and the app itself is sluggish.
How can they release something like this worldwide, without shame?
I am serious...
By Usama Jawad96
Following success in the U.S., Facebook News to launch in the U.K. next month
by Usama Jawad
Facebook began testing a news section dubbed "Facebook News" in the U.S. back in October 2019. As the name implies, this positioned itself as a dedicated tab containing a wide range of news articles, including the most relevant national stories of the day. Apart from using algorithms to highlight original content, it also depends upon a team of non-partisan curators who select stories to display in the "Today's Stories" section, based on public guidelines. Facebook says that the aim of the program is to allow publishers to reach a wider audience coupled with a wide variety of advertisement and subscription offers.
The program has apparently been successful, as the company has now announced that it will launch Facebook News in the U.K. in January 2021, as it hinted a couple of months ago.
In the first wave of rollout, Facebook will be partnering with over a dozen publishers, including The Economist, Archant, and Guardian Media Group. These publishers host numerous brands such as The Mirror, The Independent, GQ, Vogue, Tatler, and more.
Facebook says that the U.K. launch will allow local publishers to reach new audiences. It also enables consumers to discover new and diverse stories along with credible news reports during "major news cycles". With its launch earlier in the U.S., the company noticed that 95% of the traffic is from people who have never interacted with the publishers and their brands in the past.
Furthermore, in an effort to promote local journalism in the U.K., Facebook is extending its Community News Programme (CNP) in the country for one year. The program is responsible for training local journalists from diverse backgrounds. The company says:
The extension in this program also comes with an additional £2.25M ($3M) investment. Lastly, the firm has stated that it is in negotiations to bring Facebook News to Germany and France next, and will be expanding to more countries soon.