The Associated Press has just rolled out a service to make it simpler for news publishing companies to make apps for practically every smartphone out here. And guess what? In typical "we own the news" AP style, the finished apps can grab feeds from the AP.
The system is coming in collaboration with Verve Wireless, which actually developed the AP's mobile service for it—clearly the two think their technology is successful and can easily be expanded to suit other news organizations. And it taps into the whole apps-are-everything drive on the Net at the moment. The press release notes that the solution will offer other publishers "best of breed" tech to "accelerate their mobile strategies." The reasoning seems pretty sound—Verve notes that "mobile apps drive 4x-10x greater usage because they are fast and easier to use," presumably over accessing the data via a browser on a smartphone—which is perhaps a little clunkier than reading text via a simplified app. Verve also notes that dedicated apps like this are a powerful brand message, because the "apps are stored on cell phone screens," which is a odd way of saying it, buy they do have a point: Clicking on, say a Reuters app connects you mentally with who's providing you with the data more than clicking on a simple browser.
With the AP's massive weight behind it, the new white label app is likely to gain some traction from publishers who can't afford to develop their own full-blown smartphone apps—especially since its essentially free: Verve/AP will take a cut of advertising revenues, which have to be maintained at a high enough level in order to earn continued Verve support. The system will also give publishers one heck of a reach—Verve supports app development for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, WebOS and Windows Mobile.
The fascinating thing about this is that the system would seem to be a very forward-thinking solution, integrating AP right into the workings of the Internet news sphere. But the AP has, to some thinkers, demonstrated an incredibly closed-minded stance as regards the internet, and the way blogs and online news sites link to each other—particularly defending AP-generated content with attack-dog like fierceness. Maybe the Verve collaboration is an indication that the AP's finally getting Net news? Or perhaps that's just wishful thinking, and the AP's merely trying to jam its tentacles into as many corners of the net as possible—quite likely given that the finished apps can also blend in AP news to their feeds.