Monday, August 10, 2020

Funneling Into Apple News+

Tony Haile (also: MacRumors):

I wonder how many publishers in Apple News+ realize that the new iOS14 and MacOS Big Sur are by default intercepting traffic to their sites and sending it to the Apple News app instead.

This traffic interception has two interesting consequences: 1) Any strategic rationale that Apple News+ represents a separate channel/audience is now gone. This directly cannibalizes a publishers’ core subscription audience.

2) Apple has been touting privacy as its core attribute, particularly blocking cross-site tracking. In this case, not only is Apple engaging in cross-site tracking, but is doing so as a default opt-in buried in the settings.

The setting is called “Open Web Links in News.”

M.G. Siegler:

As a user I noticed it as I kept getting notices that Apple News had crashed, which is weird because I didn’t have it open. But it was intercepting links I was opening in background on browser. What a weird experience. Who wants to open another whole app to read a single article?

Russell Schneider:

Additionally, many links to external published article url’s change to apple news urls’s if go to open the article in Safari or to email a link. This is a cruddy user experience


Even worse: since the beginning, they’ve been hijacking .rss links and shoveling you to News, then giving you a warning that the RSS feed is not part of Apple News. It’s insane.

John Koetsier (via Hacker News):

Apple looks to be giving its own ad network a leg up on competitors with customer data that other ad networks can’t access. In iOS 14, Apple Advertising appears to have a separate settings panel with a default-on setting. Other advertisers and ad networks on iOS, however, need to ask permission every single time.


Update (2020-08-11): Jeff Johnson:

So I think we can say with confidence that Big Sur is checking an offline list of URL domains rather than checking online with Apple. Your privacy is still protected here.

Except that if you view an article that is available in Apple News, that information is then sent to Apple. (Of course, by default, every Web page you view in Safari is sent to your iCloud account, anyway.)

Dave Mark:

I’d love to see Apple News+ make it much easier to recover the original link to an article. I can get there by digging through the share panel, but it is certainly not obvious. And Google makes this just as difficult, often offering up a link to a link that takes you to Google’s servers.

This gatekeeping behavior is not helping solve the “news decline” problem. It’s not helping get publishers paid, and that’s not good for reporters/writers.

Update (2020-08-27): Nick Heer:

Apple has chosen a crude way to send subscribers to Apple News — something more like an app banner would be less interruptive — but this does not appear to be as gratuitous or as privacy-invasive as it appear at first blush.

Update (2020-09-11): Tim Hardwick:

Apple has added Smart App Banners to the latest iOS 14 beta that prompt Safari users to open its News app when viewing the website of a publisher that is part of Apple News+.

Update (2021-07-30): Daniel Hall:

I uninstalled Apple News from my phone, and if someone shares a link (to web content) from News, it won’t open in the browser. Instead, iOS shows me a screen requiring that I reinstall Apple News to see it. Web content!

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

This is shit. And with Apple having decided that they would sell investors on growth via services, only too predictable. They chose the market incentive structure, and now the product experience suffers. Just one of a growing number of examples.

This is 100% representative of Tim Cook’s Apple.

The Microsoftisation of Apple is now complete.

All that matters is revenue.

I often think of the time where Tim Cook explicitly stated that Apple's motivation is not profit, and that investors should get out of the stock if that's a problem. I hoped that this would help them chart a path that continued to center on customer experience:

At the same time, I've often wondered when Apple would start behaving more like most other companies. A piece from Gruber that was prescient is this:

The services push has worried me for a while. I wish they'd view most parts of the company as being in service of a greater whole, rather than trying to extract profit from each individual piece. They went down this path with Retail for a while; thankfully they seem to have stepped back from the edge there. But they have placed such a huge emphasis on services revenue that I fear they can't, and don't want to, make their services benefit the larger product experience.

[…] Michael Tsai – Blog – Funneling Into Apple News+: […]

I would happily pay the $10 for News+ if I could just access the magazines and nothing else. But I can't even keep News installed on iOS 14 because this behavior is so egregious. Another terrible product from an increasingly terrible company. The papercuts add up.

Funny. I gladly pay the subscription to Fiery Feeds for iOS and its one of the reasons to stay on Catalina and I’m trying not to look back.

I recently installed Apple “News” on my iPhone... it lasted all of 3 minutes, the User Experience was.... horrible.

> The MSFT’n of Apple is complete.

Microsoft never treated their developers like dirt, MSDN is something neu.AAPL might want to aspire to.

1. Apple cannibalizes publishers' core subscription audience
2. Publishers leave Apple
3. Apple creates dinosaurs
4. Dinosaurs eat Apple
5. Google takes over the world

It’s a matter of time before Apple faces lawsuits about this and the Apple TV app. They are taking third party content and presenting it as their own, often with inadequate attribution. How many people think that the Apple TV app, which shows content from Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS, and others, is “Apple TV+” and those shows are from Apple? The same confusion exists now in News where independent site content will be presented as part of an Apple-branded experience.

I personally find this behavior super useful. Before WWDC whenever someone posted a link to an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times I'd have to open up Apple News and try to manually find the article. (Not always easy, especially if the article was more than a day or two old.) I couldn't just view it on the website because I don't subscribe to those newspapers directly. Now I can just click on the link and it pops up instantly in Apple News+

This makes me much _more_ likely to want to read LA Times or WSJ articles. (Especially WSJ, which unlike most newspapers has no "N free articles per month" provision on its website.)

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