Kakao to launch news app

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Kakao to launch news app

Kakao Corporation, operator of the nation’s largest mobile messenger app KakaoTalk, said yesterday it will launch a test version of a mobile news app as early as next week.

The app will provide news tailored to each individual, instead of displaying information uniformly to all users as existing portal companies do.

It is not the first news app tailored to users’ interests, but it will be the first in Korea created by such a large social networking service.

The app is tentatively called KakaoTopic and Kakao is reportedly signing contracts with newspapers, broadcasters and other media outlets to supply news for it.

“We will start the open beta test of the new mobile content service that includes news as early as next week,” Park Jin-young, spokesman for Kakao Corporation, said yesterday. Kakao users will be able to access the test version of the new app for free.

“We plan to officially open the service within the year after fixing the deficiencies,” he added.

However, the company did not explain how it will connect the news service with its 35 million KakaoTalk users.

“There is no information on how Kakao will connect the app with its other services, but KakaoTalk users will be able to use the service through their KakaoTalk accounts,” Park said.

The company said the service will use an algorithm to show the stories that users and their friends take a common interest in.

Unlike Web portals Naver and Daum, which organize news in the order of what they think is most important, Kakao’s algorithm automatically displays news based on the user. The app will also be part magazine and part online community, Kakao said.

The success of the service will depend on how precise the app is in providing the information that users want. Korean mobile users are used to consuming news through portal giant Naver or from SNS such as Facebook, KakaoStory and Twitter.

According to local market research firm Rankey.com in May, Naver dominated 70 percent of the online news market and 46.9 percent of the mobile news market, while Daum held 36.5 percent of the mobile news market.

“It is difficult to evaluate how the market will react to the new mobile app at the moment, but it is predicted that the move is intended to counter the nation’s largest portal company Naver, as [Kakao] has merged with No. 2 portal Daum,” said an analyst at a local securities firm, who requested anonymity.

“If Kakao’s new app can attract 35 million KakaoTalk users into consuming news through its platform, it could definitely have a huge impact on Naver, but if it is just a separate app, it could be no threat at all,” the analyst continued.

“Although Kakao allegedly has been preparing for the app service since before it merged with Daum Communications, it is obvious that the company will cooperate with Daum in terms of providing content.”

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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