Apple News is Handicapped by the Team Running the Show Anonymously in the Background

AppleNews-startWith Apple News set to debut in two days, only a few publishers have been able to customize their channels within the app, as Apple continues its policies used with the Newsstand of picking and choosing its favorites among media brands.

If publishers thought Apple News would be a good alternative to the Newsstand they will be very sorely disappointed come Wednesday. Apple News may be open to publishers to sign up, but the same App Store team that limited Newsstand promotion to a small subset of publications are doing the same within the Apple News app.

Upon opening the Apple News app the iOS device owner is presented with a number of media brands to choose from – the user must pick one in order to proceed. From there one can later add other channels, but these channels are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the select group of partners that Apple has anointed.

The huge advantage Apple has giving these brands is access to the Apple News Format since at least June (probably even before that as Apple wanted to show off Apple News at WWDC). But while Apple has allowed other publishers to sign up for Apple News, they have purposely limited access to the new platform, despite it being ten weeks since they were informed that they would be part of Apple News. All Apple has allowed those publishers to do so far is add feeds.

The result is that only those select few media brands preferred by Apple have been able to customize their content and make their stories look presentable within Apple News. That means some of the content looks nice within the app, but the rest looks like what one might expect from an RSS reader.

AN-iPhone6-380I find this utterly sad, because the app has potential.

For instance, doing a search for “iOS 9” within the app pulls up the latest story – TNM’s Morning Brief that talks about iOS 9 and the gold master available for developers. You think that makes me happy, but it doesn’t. TNM looks terrible compared to other media sites because the content has not been customized.

For other media brands that have added their content, they probably have not had a chance to look at what their content really looks like inside the app. Many brands, for instance, routinely use RSS feeds that only present a summary of the story. These publishers may choose to retain this, as the stories will still be seen, but will force the reader out to tap the link and leave the app to read the story on their website. But my guess is that others will see this and immediately want to change their settings.

Apple is once again playing games with a digital news product and once again publishers look like they will be at the mercy of the App Store team in order to get fair treatment – if history is any judge, they should not expect to receive it. I think, in the end, this will limit the usefulness of the app for both publishers and readers alike.

It doesn’t help that Apple’s icon for the app is so ugly, but I suppose that is a minor complaint compared to its that involving the Apple News Format. But things are not starting off well, and if Apple’s commitment to maintaining the Newsstand is any guide, one cannot expect Apple to pay much attention to Apple News once it has launched officially on Wednesday. They will, as they often do, simply move on to the Next Big Thing.

reposted with permission from Talking New Media

D. B. Hebbard

View posts by D. B. Hebbard
Douglas Hebbard (or if you are using D.B. Hebbard use that) is a 30+ year veteran of the newspaper and magazine publishing business, and has been publisher of the digital publishing website Talking New Media since 2010.


  1. John14 September, 2015

    Yeah look, you’d better not repost stuff from Talking New Media… it’s not as if everyone knew it was a fraud.

    As for the Apple News format not being available to all publishers, that’s perfectly standard. Consider it is “beta testing”: you first need to make sure everything is alright before opening the gates. If you’re flooded with a lot of Apple News formatted articles and anything goes wrong, Apple News is dead on arrival and the problems impossible to solve.

    But again, any person with at least a little knowledge in digital publishing could tell you that. But TNW is a fraud. Plain and Simple…

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 September, 2015

      It isn’t just that Apple is playing favorites but that they are excluding a lot of sites. This blog isn’t even in Apple News, much less allowed to tweak the layout.

      And no, it doesn’t make any sense to exclude sites days before the launch. We all should have had full access a month ago, or at least been allowed to serve our RSS feeds to readers.

  2. Scott G. Lewis14 September, 2015

    Out of curiosity, did you sign up?

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 September, 2015

      @ Scott Yes.I signed up a long time ago.

      But hey, I’ll go do it again just to see if it works this time.

      Edit: Yep. I had applied a while ago, back when I was still Ink, Bits, & Pixels. Apple is still sitting on that earlier application.

  3. Scott G. Lewis14 September, 2015

    Also when I installed iOS 9 beta and opened the News app, there were some featured publishers available, but also channel categories (News, Politics, etc). Just like Flipboard, and Zite before it. In fairness, you realize Apple is releasing the app not merely out of benevolence, but presumably to generate revenue, too. Advertising is one way. Media companies paying to get front page access is another.

  4. Scott G. Lewis14 September, 2015

    Ok. Since I don’t run a site, I wasn’t able to get already through that process to see if it was automatic or held up for review. Still, it doesn’t really surprise me or concern me that Apple is slow rolling the “open to all” functionality. It’s a beta app, after all. Not everybody was in the app store day 1 either.

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 September, 2015

      This isn’t the app store!

      Apple has an exclusive on the iTunes app store, but they don’t have an exclusive on news apps. Users are already reading in a bunch of competing apps, and if Apple wants to steal those readers then it is going to have to do something to attract and keep their attention.

      Offering a limited selection of reading content is not the way to do that. It’s going to drive readers back to the apps they used before.

      I really do think Doug will be proven correct, that Apple News will be as neglected as Apple Newstand. That’s what it looks like two day out, anyway.

  5. Mackay Bell14 September, 2015

    Wow, two days out and Apple News isn’t better the best possible news reader?! It’s doomed.

    Look, this is a hobby for Apple, an experiment. I don’t think this is their main focus. That being said, it’s usually a mistake to bet against Apple. I don’t think this is the same as Newsstand, which was a way to push people into paying for news subscriptions, something that people hate to do. Apple’s heart was never in Newsstand, they just made an effort to try to help out newspapers and magazines who were desperate to find a business model based on subscriptions. It didn’t work, and yes, Apple didn’t kill themselves trying to make it work.

    Apple News seems like more of a defensive play, a test to see if they can compete with Google and Facebook on the news curating front. Whether Apple is seriously committed to it or now, time will tell.

    But, given what happened with the App store, I think people in this space would be making a mistake to ignore it. I’m glad you applied to be included. Stick with it. There might be a big payoff for sites like this if you can figure out the workings of it, which is something you’re good at.

    This site seems perfect for what I imagine Apple News might become. I suspect in the long run, Apple News will favor smaller, more nimble news sites that optimize for it.

  6. Scott G. Lewis14 September, 2015

    “Apple has an exclusive on the iTunes app store, but they don’t have an exclusive on news apps. Users are already reading in a bunch of competing apps, and if Apple wants to steal those readers then it is going to have to do something to attract and keep their attention.”

    It’s a slow launch. Relax. A slow launch of an app that’s of relatively no importance to Apple. Remember before last week when Apple sold a billion dollars of TV streaming boxes and called it a hobby? Remember how they still sell billions of dollars worth of iPod Touches but really don’t see it as a big focal point in their business anymore, content to come out with 2 products in the last 5 years and make the latest release an after-thought, even though years ago it would have heralded their own press event?

    It’s not going to “steal” news readers. It will earn SOME. It won’t REPLACE news apps in the app store, anymore than iBooks or the Podcast app replaced their respective competitors.

    Your site will get in there eventually. Just because you’re currently shunned, doesn’t make it a failure. It’s not even released yet. Just some beta testers running it.

    Apple Newsstand, as the astute commenter above mention was a totally different beast.

    Frankly, I hope v2 is great. Because Flipboard wasn’t a great replacement for Zite for me, and there’s room for another app that can constantly refine what it shows you based on your likes and dislikes. Same reason Netflix is so great, same reason TiVo is so great.

    Go use another app. I have half a dozen news apps, plus the RSS reader I use to track this site and a few dozen others I read fairly regularly. It’s not an either-or situation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top