AOL, the one-time Internet star seeking to reinvent itself as a major media player, is joining the craze for personalized news readers for tablet computers.
The Internet and media firm, which purchased The Huffington Post in February for $315 million to serve as the flagship of its media fleet, launched a free daily news magazine for Apple’s hot-selling iPad this week called Editions.
Like other iPad news aggregators such as Flipboard, Pulse, Taptu and Zite, Editions uses algorithms to take a reader’s interests into account in serving up their pages.
Editions users customize their experience by indicating their interest in topics such as Top News, Entertainment, Sports, Design, Tech, Business, Family, Health and Fitness, Sports or Travel.
Readers can also link their Facebook, Twitter or AOL accounts to the application, available as a free download from Apple’s App Store, to help guide the selection of news sources.
When connected with Twitter, for example, a publication followed on Twitter will become a preferred news source in Editions.
Editions users who plug in their location or zip code receive local weather reports and local news, much of it provided by Patch, AOL’s nationwide community news project.
“Once you start reading, Editions will learn what you like (and what you don’t),” according to AOL. “The more you read, the better Editions gets at delivering the latest news and information, all tailored to your tastes.”
David Temkin, AOL’s head of mobile, said Editions is an attempt to “take the best of the online and offline reading experiences and fuse them into a single, sleek magazine.
“By combining custom features with technology that learns about you as you use it, Editions delivers a magazine every day that’s full of the things you care about most,” he added in a statement.
While AOL resembles Flipboard and Zite and other personalized iPad readers, in some ways it has more in common with News Corp.’s The Daily, in that it is downloaded once a day to a user’s iPad.
Unlike The Daily, which costs 99 cents a week, Editions is free and devoid of advertising for the time being.
Another key difference is that The Daily produces most of its content using its own stable of reporters and editors, while Editions aggregates news from blogs, newspapers and magazines across the Web.
Articles from AOL-owned outlets such as The Huffington Post and technology blog TechCrunch open directly in the application but stories from other sources link to a publication’s website in an apparent bid to avoid the legal hassles experienced by Canadian startup Zite.
The Washington Post, Dow Jones, Time Inc. and other news organizations told Zite in March, just weeks after its launch, to stop displaying their articles and photographs, alleging copyright infringement.
Instead of directing a reader to a news organization’s website, where they carry online advertising, Zite had been showing stories reformatted in a pop-up window without ads.
After receiving the “cease-and-desist” letter, Zite began linking directly to the websites of the complaining publications.
Editions is the latest media venture for AOL under chief executive Tim Armstrong, who has been seeking to position the company as a major player in online content since he was lured away from Google in March 2009.
Formerly known as America Online, AOL fused with news and entertainment titan Time Warner in 2001 at the height of the dotcom boom in what is seen as one of the most disastrous mergers ever.
It was spun off by Time Warner in December 2009 into an independent company.
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