News Corp aggregator aims to break free from tech platforms

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.on Wednesday unveiled an online news aggregation service.
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Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.on Wednesday unveiled an online news aggregation service, aiming to break away from the tech platforms that dominate digital media.

The application called Knewz will include content from more than 400 sources in the US and worldwide, including Al-Jazeera, the Washington Post and Murdoch's own Fox News.

A News Corp statement said the app will offer "the latest news from the widest variety of sources, free of filter bubbles and narrow-minded nonsense."

If successful, the project could steer readers away from major tech platforms such as Google and Facebook, which scoop up the majority of online ad revenues and user data.

"Knewz is unique in that readers can, at a single glance, see multiple sources," said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp.

"It is not egregious aggregation but generous aggregation. There are mastheads from across the political and regional spectrum, and premium publishers will not be relegated in the rankings."

According to the statement, Knewz combined "cutting edge, proprietary artificial intelligence with experienced editors" and curates "a selection of headlines that provide a broad perspective on stories of the day."

The outlets available included the British-based BBC and Daily Mail, Al Jazeera and dozens of US-based organizations including BuzzFeed, Mother Jones and the Washington Post.

"Readers will have access to publishers large and small, niche and general, located in all 50 states," Thomson said.

"We live in a world of vexatious verticals, of crass clickbait, of polarized perspectives and fallacious, fact-free feeds -- Knewz is knowing and needed."

The company said Knewz "will share as much data as possible with publishers, ensuring that they have every opportunity to monetize their content."

News Corp. has been among the fiercest critics of big tech firms, claiming that they take advantage of news organizations without adequate compensation.

But last year it joined in a project with Facebook, which unveiled a plan that would compensation publishers whose content is available on the social network.

News Corp is part of the media empire created by the Australian-born Murdoch which includes the Wall Street Journal and dailies in Britain and Australia. Murdoch, 88, is the executive chairman and his son Lachlan is co-chairman. The family also controls Fox Corp which includes the cable news outlet Fox News.

Damian Radcliffe, a University of Oregon journalism professor, said Knewz has assembled an "impressive" group of news outlets and offers some potential for news organizations struggling in the digital environment.

"This looks like an effort to create a news aggregator that isn't reliant upon Silicon Valley, and the whims of the algorithms, and revenue models which underpin those platforms," Radcliffe said.

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