By Kevin O'Keefe

Apple News a model for news and commenatry from legal blogs

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Apple News, unlike Facebook and Google which use AI and algorithms to curate the news for readers, does things the old fashioned way – with humans selecting the news.

If you’ve been following along, you know that LexBlog is creating the largest legal news and commentary network by curating the valuable contributions of legal bloggers, worldwide. 

Right now, we’re featuring stories on the “front page,” changing things out a couple times a day. Channel pages are created dynamically. We have plenty of room for improvement, but it’s a start.

The New York Times’ Jack Nicas detailed in last Sunday’s paper Apple News’ approach of humans over machines. 

One morning in late August, Apple News’s editor in chief, Lauren Kern, huddled with a deputy to discuss the five stories to feature atop the company’s three-year-old news app, which comes preinstalled on every iPhone in the United States, Britain and Australia.

National news sites were leading that day with stories that the Justice Department had backed an affirmative-action lawsuit against Harvard University — a good proxy that the story mattered, said Ms. Kern’s deputy, a former editor for The New York Times whom Apple requested not be named for privacy reasons. He and Ms. Kern quickly agreed that it was the day’s top news, and after reading through a few versions, selected The Washington Post’s report because, they said, it provided the most context and explanation on why the news mattered.

…Ms. Kern said her team aimed to mix the day’s top stories with lighter features and sometimes longer investigations, much like the front page of a newspaper. They largely chose from a list of contenders compiled that morning by three editors in New York who pored over the home pages and mobile alerts of national news sites, as well as dozens of pitches from public

This curation by Apple News has transformed Apple into a powerful news publisher and, per Nicas, transformed Kern, a former journalist, into one the most powerful figures in media. The stories she and her team select regularly receive more than a million visits each.

Apple pulls in news from traditional publishers and, just like LexBlog, pulls in RSS feeds from sources across the Web.

Kern and her team of 30 former journalists in Australia, Europe and the U.S. consume the news through out the day and decide which stories get the top spot.

Ultimately, they select five stories to lead the app, with the top two also displayed in a prominent window to the left of the iPhone home screen. They also curate a magazine-style section of feature stories. The lineup typically shifts five or more times a day, depending on the news. A single editor in London typically chooses the first mix of stories for the East Coast’s morning commute before editors in New York and then Cupertino step in.

LexBlog is now aggregating legal blog posts from close to 20,000 legal bloggers, up about 2,000 bloggers in the two months since we opened the network to bloggers not publishing on LexBlog’s publishing platform.

The posts generated from our data base of blogs published on our platform and RSS feeds from “non-platform” blogs generate anywhere from 150 to 200 stories a day. 

Even with a four or five fold increase in bloggers, journalists employed by LexBlog along with channel leaders from within the blogging community could well maintain human editing of the network. 

Apple News believes it is a lifeline for for journalism. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook sees Apple as having a responsility to help the news industry. “It’s fundamental to democracy.”

LexBlog sees legal blogs as central to increasing access to legal services. Insight and commentary from practicing lawyers not only means more information freely available, but also opens new lines of communicaton  and trust between people and lawyers.

A legal blog news network gives lawyers and the public at large greater access to legal information. For legal bloggers they receive support as well as a shot in the arm from having ther stories highlighted among the best and the brightest, worldwide. 

Traditional legal publishing in the form of law reviews, legal periodicals, treatises and the like continues to slide. At the same time, blogs, much more niche focused and mostly written by practicing  authorities, continue to grow.

A legal blog network supported by a publishing platform, as needed by individual bloggers, can be a lifeline for not only legal information, but also in increasing access to legal services.

And like Apple News, it would seem daily legal news could aggegrated from disparate source and then curated — by real people.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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