Samsung Preps Apple News Rival In Europe, Inks Axel Springer Deal

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Samsung has inked a strategic partnership with European media giant Axel Springer. The pair announced the collaboration in a press release today, ahead of the IFA consumer electronics conference where they will be showing off an early beta of their first jointly created app.

The pair said they will work together on “digital media offerings exclusively for Samsung customers”, saying they will develop a range of “creative new services” to be brought to market “in 2016 and beyond”. Samsung confirmed to TechCrunch the partnership is solely focused on developing services for its European users.

The initial service the pair are developing is an aggregated news content platform with the unlovely name of ‘Upday’. It will apparently be fully launched next year but an early beta version will be unveiled from this Thursday — available to “select Samsung customers” in Germany and Poland. (A full rollout in those markets, and elsewhere in Europe, is slated for “early 2016”.)

Upday sounds as if it will be aggregating a variety of editorial content based on contextual signals available via mobile — such as user location and interests.

The pair write:

UPDAY will offer Samsung customers access to a range of news content that combines ‘Need to Know’ information selected by a local market editorial team and ‘Want to Know’ information, an algorithm-based service tailored to customers’ individual interests.

Axel Springer confirmed Upday users will have access to content outside its church of publications. A company spokeswoman told TechCrunch: “Upday not only aggregates Axel Springer-content but also content of a lot of other publishers. It is about distributing content of Axel Springer and other publishers to Samsung customers.”

The ‘Want to Know’ component of Upday will offer content from non-Axel Springer publishers (“we show snippets and link to the websites”, is how the spokeswoman describes this — which, it must be said, is rather ironic, given Axel Springer’s long-running fight with Google’s use of its own ‘news snippets’Update: On the snippets point, the company notes further it “will be paying the ancillary copyright for press publishers, that’s the difference [vs Google News]”.).

The ‘Need to Know’ component of the app will involve content created by a dedicated editorial team — writing “short summaries for the most important topics of the day”, according to the spokeswoman. These bespoke summaries will also link out to source websites so the user can presumably drill down if they want to read more.

She declined to confirm whether Samsung is paying Axel Springer to produce editorial content for its devices but that’s presumably a key plank of the deal. So rather than Samsung tooling up with edit staff itself, a la Apple, it’s partnering with a publishing giant to get access to an existing talent pool of pens.

“We don’t give any details on financial issues. But of course, both partners are investing to develop and operate Upday,” the Axel Springer spokeswoman added.

Samsung Android OEM rival HTC has had a news and content aggregator on its devices for several years, of course. Its BlinkFeed interface, which blends news, social content and other data like weather into a Flipboard-esque feed, was launched back in early 2013. However Samsung is evidently taking the personalized news feed concept a little further by offering bespoke editorial content for its users.

Meanwhile, back in June, Apple announced its own Flipboard clone that’s coming in iOS 9: aka a news aggregator app (called ‘News’) that will source editorial content from a number of publishers and present a personalized feed to users within an Applish “rich typography” interface — again, a la Flipboard et al. It’s not clear whether the journalists Apple is busy hiring for News will be writing story summaries or simply curating source material.

Apple’s news aggregator does have another trick up its sleeve: data privacy. User data, interests and preferences are not shared with third parties. Apple clearly flagged that up as a differentiator for its News service when it announced it back at WWDC.

By contrast, Samsung and Axel Springer’s agreement doesn’t mention data privacy. “The content will be designed to both meet and anticipate consumers’ rapidly-evolving needs in an increasingly ‘mobile-centric’ era,” they write.

Commenting further in a statement, Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer, lauded the “fantastic technological opportunities for journalism in the digital age”.

Axel Springer is an active investor in startups, via its investment arm Axel Springer Digital Ventures. Its investments to date include financing pay-per-delivery journalism marketplace startup Blendle. But the media giant is clearly spreading its bets on which digital news content models might prevail to deliver future revenues — hence getting a mobile giant to pay for editorial snippets.