Monday, March 25, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple News+

Tim Hardwick:

Access to over 300 popular magazines, leading newspapers and digital publishers is included in each Apple News+ subscription, with topics covering everything from entertainment, fashion and news, to politics, health, lifestyle and travel.

Apple News+ subscribers can access current and past issues and individual articles from magazines such as The Atlantic, Better Homes & Gardens, Bon Appétit, Condé Nast Traveler, ELLE, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, Esquire, Food & Wine, Good Housekeeping, GQ, Health, InStyle, Martha Stewart Living, National Geographic, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, O, The Oprah Magazine, Parents, People, Real Simple, Rolling Stone, Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, TIME, Travel + Leisure, Vanity Fair, Vogue, WIRED and Woman’s Day.

In addition, Apple News+ includes The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper.

Benjamin Mayo:

The service is branded as News+ and is available today with the release of the new iOS and macOS software updates. $9.99 includes family sharing, so you can share with up to six Family members at no extra cost.

[…]

Apple said there are over 5 billion articles read every month inside Apple News, making it the #1 news app in the world. Apple touted its new service as a defence against clickbait with a focus on quality journalism.

I continue to find Apple News to be disappointing. It’s like Apple reinvented the RSS reader with less privacy (everything goes through an Apple tracking URL) and a worse user experience (less control over fonts, text that isn’t selectable, no searching within or across stories). So the idea of content that must be accessed from the app—and likely can’t even be opened in Safari—is not attractive to me.

Questions:

If I’m reading elsewhere and come across a link to a paywalled article at one of the above publications, is there an easy way to read it using an Apple News+ subscription?

How exactly does Apple News reduce clickbait? The publications will still get more traffic for certain articles. They’ll have statistics for this, as will Apple.

John Gruber:

Unanswered question: does an Apple News Plus subscription get you access to the WSJ website too? Or is only through the News app? I’m guessing it’s only through the news app because how would the Journal get you a login if they don’t get info about News Plus subscribers?

Brian Stelter:

WSJ internal memo says Apple News+ users will only get a “curated collection of general interest news.” To access biz reporting, you’ll still have to subscribe to the WSJ. Memo says “our collaboration with Apple will also extend to areas like video, voice, market data and AI.”

Peter Kafka:

ACTUALLY I just spoke to an Apple exec who believes Apple news subs will get full access to wsj.

Update (2019-03-26): Steve Troughton-Smith:

Apple News+ Magazines doesn’t seem to use FairPlay (😐), and preloads the first few pages of PDF-based issues regardless of whether you have a subscription (🤦‍♂️). Thus, you can just rip them out of the cache on macOS and reconstitute the original PDF. Kinda irresponsible

(With a full subscription, there is absolutely nothing stopping somebody ripping the entire source PDF to an Apple News Magazine)

I figured one of the most obvious things about the Texture acquisition would be that magazine publishers could count on Apple to FairPlay their content, something Texture could not do alone. I guess I was wrong? 😅

Steve Troughton-Smith:

It gets better! Even without a subscription, the magazine preview in Apple News downloads a manifest which happens to list all the pages. All of which, hosted in public, sans any protection. So it takes minutes to write a tool that downloads an entire magazine issue page by page

[…]

As a publisher, I would be pretty disappointed. There’s a comedy of errors here with things that would have been easily preventable, if anybody thought to consider them. Clearly, nobody expected anybody to look. Apple knows better; all of its other services use FairPlay & auth

Steve Troughton-Smith:

It is hard to imagine Apple shipping a magazine service for iPhone where 50% of the catalog is just PDFs of the print magazines that have to be furiously pinch-zoomed to read anything…

Each PDF page is served individually and has multiple representations; they could easily have served iPhone-formatted pages if the publishers were willing

Steve Troughton-Smith:

It takes just one tiny swizzle in the News app to enable the AppleInternal subscription mode, which authorizes your account for free access to everything. I think somebody needs to have a sit-down with the News team

Federico Viticci:

I went in and counted all the magazines available in Apple News+ – including whether they are using Apple News Format or traditional PDF pages. Here is the full list so far. Enjoy.

Joe Cieplinski:

I get that regular magazine readers are accustomed to just leafing through the whole rag. But from a digital standpoint, being able to save for later seems like common sense.

James O’Leary:

Mac is starting a 2+ year transition where the end goal is Mac apps turn into iOS apps, it’ll be extremely buggy during that period, it’s unclear how that’ll help either platform, and you’re still stuck on 5 year old form factors on a 20 year old OS.

Amol Sharma:

To clarify, based on people familiar with it: Apple subs will have access to almost all WSJ content. But the app will surface stories thought to be appealing to a general interest reader. The thinking is, consumption beyond what’s actively surfaced will be limited.

modest proposal:

so News Corp is hoping that the UX is shitty enough that people paying $30/mo for WSJ won’t cancel for $20/mo savings because it will be too hard to find most of the content?

Dave Nanian:

Not to be an idiot, but what’s the difference between Apple News+ and Texture at this point? Why is Texture still there? Why didn’t existing Texture customers get automatically transitioned to Apple News+?

Paul Kehrer (via Hacker News):

However, instead of simply being locked behind a hardware feature gate, Apple chose to disable it much more forcefully. If you enter China with a US iPhone (e.g. one purchased in the US from a US carrier or at a US Apple Store), using a US carrier, with your phone set to the US region, and with location services disabled for the News app, you will still receive this message upon opening News[…]

To accomplish this censorship Apple is using a form of location fingerprinting that is not available to normal applications on iOS. It works like this: despite the fact that your phone uses a SIM from a US carrier it must connect to a Chinese cellular network. Apple is using private APIs to identify that you are in mainland China based on the name of the underlying cellular network and blocking access to the News app.

[…]

This censorship occurs despite the fact that when in China a cell phone using a foreign SIM is not subject to the firewall restrictions (all traffic is tunneled back to your provider first), so Google, Twitter, Facebook, et al all work fine on a non-mainland China SIM even though you’re connected via China Mobile or China Unicom’s network.

Dave DeLong:

Hey @apple, your auto-renewing subscription screen is in violation of guideline 3.1.2 and your app should be rejected.

For starters… no links to privacy policy or support page; no info on how to cancel.

I’m honestly surprised there hasn’t been an extremely public lawsuit against @apple about the huge #DoubleStandards and inconsistent application of the App Review Guidelines.

Seems ripe for a class-action lawsuit, IMO.

Previously:

Update (2019-03-27): Michael Love:

Also, did none of these publishers’ legal teams think to put in a clause about content protection? (it’s a pretty standard term in copyright licenses) Or is Apple Legal asleep at the switch here + letting the News team ship an app that violates their license agreement?

Martijn de Kuijper:

“Who thinks the new Apple news service is a good thing for the industry and we should get involved?” zero hands raised in a room full of publishers #DISummit

Update (2019-03-28): Brian Morrissey:

One of my favorite publisher stories about Apple News. Publisher had very big ad deal but Apple refused to allow the tracking the advertiser required, killing the deal. The advertiser: Apple.

Update (2019-03-29): Manton Reece:

Federico’s point here gets to the key issue with these aggregation platforms, whether it’s News+, Facebook, or the App Store. When you give up control over distribution, you also give up control over revenue. With publishing on the open web, there’s always an alternative: your own domain name and your own subscribers. (For the App Store, there’s no choice.)

Mark Nunnikhoven:

at WWDC 2018, we learned that @Apple was going to make it easier to develop once & run on iOS &macOS

News is one of the first. you’d think they would’ve been some effort in given the News+ launch

...nope...

clearly macOS is a 2nd tier effort here

Update (2019-04-02): Juli Clover:

Reading a magazine on a Mac in Apple News+ is a terrible experience. Ew.

Update (2019-04-03): Jon Gales:

Apple News+ is a strange product. It works horribly on an airplane which seemingly would be a huge use case. Here’s what I saw for several minutes before it refreshed to show what I had downloaded.

But I guess I didn’t really download them? It’s like they put zero effort into this.

At least it shows you the list of stories that you can’t access, instead of just an empty screen like the WWDC app.

Update (2019-04-04): John Bergmayer:

amazing tip from @viticci: publications are apparently required to allow you to cancel subscriptions online if you live in california. so just change your billing address to one in California and suddenly a “cancel” button might appear

Update (2019-04-05): John Markoff:

Apple News+ Twitter review: This is not “Cupertino Class” UI. It’s an embarrassing dog’s breakfast. It feels rushed and sloppy. Why would they do something this inept? Also it will likely do real damage to the magazine publishing industry:

Update (2019-04-08): Joshua Benton:

Apple News Plus launched with two U.S. newspapers (The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times) and a handful of digital news sites (including The Skimm, TechCrunch, and verticals from New York magazine). They’re shoehorned in oddly: With a few exceptions they don’t appear inside “Apple News Plus” at all, but rather back in Apple News proper (Apple News Minus?), which is built around articles. But they’re not easy to find and they’re not labeled to distinguish themselves from the free content you’re not paying 10 bucks a month for.

Yesterday, I got frustrated enough trying to find one of those digital news product — “The Highlight” by Vox — that I was driven to tweetstorm.

Dave Nanian:

I am in 100% agreement with @jbenton here. Apple News+ is a UI disaster.

Jon Gales:

A fun game you can play at home: see a WSJ headline and then try and find it on Apple News+. They did an outstanding job at hiding what you want to read, but still make it look like there’s a lot of content.

Pata Ling:

Apple News+ completely misses the point of Magazines. They were referred to as ‘Glossies’; the form is the point. Yet Apple sloppily repackaged it as an rss feed. There is minimal difference between the demoed Essence story in Apple News+ and the free site

And it really is sloppy UX: The title bar is still shown in full screen mode on the Mac News+ app and the status bar and home bar are still shown while reading in iOS — contrast with iBooks. So much for an immersive Magazine experience

Juli Clover:

The user interface looks simple enough, but there are some quirks that have been confusing new subscribers. There’s no clear way to add a new magazine to the My Magazines list, and in fact, you have to search for the title of the magazine in the standard Apple News interface and “favorite” it with a heart to get it to show up reliably in My Magazines or tap the title to get taken to an overview page, neither of which is intuitive.

To further confuse things, some magazines that you’ve read but haven’t favorited will temporarily be displayed in My Magazines, and there are no options anywhere to control what shows up there, nor to customize content recommendations to make them more relevant to one’s interests.

[…]

PDFs look all right on iPad, but are difficult to read on iPhone, and the Mac interface for Apple News+ is no better. The single page spread on Mac features small text that’s not easy to zoom into, making reading PDF-based magazines on most devices a less than stellar experience.

Andy Lee:

One thing I like about the Google News app is that when you share a link it links directly to the primary source. In this respect the Google News and Apple News apps are the opposite of what I would have expected if I knew nothing about them.

Update (2019-04-11): Regarding clickbait, Juli Clover:

I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on an Apple News notification so fast

Update (2019-04-16): Adam Clark Estes:

I’ve been using Apple News+ daily since it launched on March 25, and it hasn’t been easy. Right now, the service feels half-baked, and using it is full of frustrations. These include struggles with browsing content from the new Apple News+ partners as well as major problems reading that content, some of which is nothing more than PDFs of magazine pages that don’t display well on small screens. What’s more frustrating is that the paid Apple News+ subscription does not appear to give you full digital access to all of the participating publications. You’re mostly allowed to read the stories that appear in the print editions.

There are parts of Apple News+, like family sharing, that currently do not work as advertised.

Accidental Tech Podcast:

Apple News on John’s Mac is still broken

It crashes at launch.

Tom Harrington:

Apple’s News app includes Apple’s news digest, and unsubscribing is not an option. I’ll stick with apps where I’m in control.

Juli Clover:

When encouraging publications to sign up, Apple promised design resources and templates for customizing content for the Apple News format, but as it turns out, Apple is shutting out some smaller publications and “playing favorites” with larger publishers.

[…]

Magazine publishers need to use tools to scan PDFs and convert them into individual articles and advertisements, but the technology is said to be so buggy that each issue needs to be “effectively copy- and design-edited all over again.”

Smaller magazines that don’t have the resources for these full redesigns need to either invest time and money anyway or submit a PDF instead. A lot of the content within Apple News+ at the current time is PDF-based, which does not make for the greatest user reading experience.

Publishers are also said to be frustrated with the “uneven user experience” in Apple News with the split between PDFs and the new Apple News format. “You think of Apple, and they’re so design-conscious,” said one publisher. “This doesn’t feel like that at all.”

6 Comments

Niall O’Mara

Sadly (as someone who used to make a living in the industry) I don’t see this being a big success. Very few people will be willing to pay c9.99 a month now they’ve become accustomed to getting so much online written content for free. People don’t have time to make the most of what’s on offer here.

I’ve always thought the only way publishing will work going forward is micro transactions but maybe it’s too difficult to implement at present?(interesting that publishers purportedly get paid based on how much content was read but customers to get the equivalent of paying for what you read that month)

Today's announcements are just sad. There's not a single thing I'm interested in. Not one. Even the latest iOS update doesn't have anything new in it that I will use. I feel like as the years go by, Apple is changing so much that I'm becoming the type of customer that they no longer prioritize. Now there's a race to become a music streaming service, a magazine service, a TV programming service, a gaming service... why?

I mean we've had Apple Music for almost 4 years now and they have made ZERO real updates to it. It still seems to me that its only selling point is that it's built-in. Otherwise, in every aspect it's so much worse than Spotify (at least Spotify has an API, customized playlists for music discovery, an active community...). If Apple wasn't being so anti-competitive and gave iOS the option to have other apps as the "defaults" and Spotify could get all of the "built-in" benefits of Apple Music, I don't see why any rational person would choose AM since it's so bad (don't get me wrong, Spotify could be better) and has not even begun to live up to the MEGA hype that Apple spewed about how much better it would be.

Seriously, Apple has NEVER been good at this stuff. Why do they think if they keep throwing shit at the wall it will eventually stick? (and at the same time, they keep abandoning the things that they ARE good at). This race to the bottom by providing other people's intellectual property for pennies per month -- while Apple reap nearly all of the gains -- can only last so long. How long will it take before these magazine companies say "You know what, this isn't worth it" and pull their content? Haven't we already seen similar complaints about Apple News? and iAds or whatever it was called? and what happened to Game Center? Is that still a thing?

Apple can't even keep up the quality of the things (hardware, software, service) that they currently offer -- and their solution is to add more products and services?

They are spreading themselves too thin by trying to be the one company that provides everything. I really hope they lose some of these lawsuits about how anti-competitive they are. By throwing their Apple branded media garbage into the world, and giving themselves benefits that other apps or services are banned from using/providing, they are making the market WORSE for consumers. Since other apps and services simply can't compete on an Apple's unfair playing field, we will never know how much we are missing (since those alternate apps and services will never be created).

BenG - Apple Music is in no way "so much worse than Spotify" and these kinds of comments are baffling to me. Spotify isn't bad but it's got an awful interface, can't deal with non-Spotify tracks in any way as elegantly as Apple Music can (a big deal for me because I prefer to support indie bands via Bandcamp and I can drop the files into Apple Music and they show up alongside everything else with no other effort on my part, on every device), Apple Music pays artists better than Spotify...the totally uncritical Spotify love is so hard for me to process. Apple Music is great.

@Kara

The Spotify can't deal with non Spotify track is I guess a design problem. I find the Spotify to be a much better music player and has much better selection. Apple Music took nearly 4 years to get to what we are at today and it is barely useable now, but not "best" in class. The first 2 years it spend its time trying to move "the next song" narrative with little to no success. And they are now finally opening to browse and manual discovery. As well as old non renewed licensed Music in playlist get updated again instead of completely gone. All these were with Spotify since Day one.

Not to mention the Music Selection in other Region are much better than Apple Music.

I personally don't like the Apple Music interface. Why, for instance, is there no "previous song" button in the compacted mode? Why did they remove the listening history? Why can't I swipe on the song artwork to go back and forward? Why are the "For You" recommendation algorithms SO terrible? (wasn't music discovery one of the things they said they were going to revolutionize?)

For interface I would rank: Spotify > Apple Music > Pandora

For quality of music discovery I would rank: Pandora > Spotify > Apple Music

Apple Music seems like a "take it or leave it" service. If their algorithms suck and keep serving me radio stations and playlists that I'm not interested in, there's no way to add variety (like you can do with Pandora) or an API (like Spotify) that lets you customize what you're hearing. Plus there's no active community around it, so I can't even pull up other people's playlists for inspiration. And no Release Radar, Daily Mix, Discover Weekly, Your Top Songs from Last Year, etc. Yeah, Spotify isn't perfect and I find the Daily Mix to be really repetitive... but at least they are trying? Apple Music just seems so stale. What have they brought to the table? Nothing that I can see.

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