Some publishers claim Apple 'playing favorites' with Apple News+

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Apple News+ is apparently experiencing growing pains, as a handful of smaller publications speak out about problems with the month-old service including access to platform-specific design templates and poor communication from Apple.




Citing five publications taking part in Apple News+, Digiday reports Apple is giving unequal aid to participants of the subscription news and magazine service, with much of the company's assistance seemingly focused on larger publishers.

Perhaps most detrimental to Apple's next-generation news hub is a reported lack of support for adapting publications, both physical and digital, into the custom Apple News+ format.

According to sources, Apple in pitches leading up to the release of News+ presented a customized version of soccer magazine Eight by Eight, suggesting all publishers would be furnished with their own specialized design assets and templates.

"They basically said, We will help you out by providing templates,'" a source told Digiday.

That has not been the case.

Beyond giving input on in-house templates designed by larger outlets, Apple has not provided its own solution for publications to insert into their respective workflows. Instead, the tech giant is outsourcing template design work to outside vendors, a strategy that has yielded mixed results, the report said.

Publishers of physical magazines who opted out of custom templates, or simply could not afford to roll their own tools, are left to rely on "buggy" conversion software that scans and converts article PDFs into a format digestible by Apple News+. Apple's provided tools are reportedly not up to snuff, leaving magazines no choice but to commit resources toward re-editing the copy and design of each issue.

Further, the tools are standardized, meaning output is largely homogenous. For publishers looking to stand out in a crowded industry, and have done so with successful print design, Apple's answer to digital adaptation is sub-optimal.

The result is a disparity in design that sees some magazines displayed with custom article templates, interactive graphics and special animated cover art, while others are simple PDF scans. Publishers are reportedly vexed by the uneven user experience.

"You think of Apple, and they're so design-conscious," a second source said. "This doesn't feel like that at all."

Apple does maintain a team of designers tasked with fielding pitches for design help, but the initiative is not applied evenly to all publishers. Headed up by former Wired editor Jason Tanz, the group accepts requests for assistance on specific articles or story packages. While Apple handed out a global email address to all participating publications, a smaller group was afforded access to a private Slack channel.

Apple's preferential treatment did not sit well with some publishers.

"They're basically playing favorites," said a source at a participating Apple News+ publication. "It always seems to be good for the big guys, but not for the rest of us."

Publishers also complain about Apple's indifference to confusion as to whether Apple News+ interferes or cannibalizes digital sponsorships of print edition packages.

Apple debuted Apple News+ at a special event in March and launched the service as part of iOS 12.2. A report in early April claims some 200,000 people signed up for a trial subscription to the service in its first 48 hours of availability.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    This sounds like the same problem with Newstand: Apple not providing the appropriate templates and style/publishing tools for a common UI, but also the publisher taking shortcuts in just providing PDFs of what’s in print form and not wanting to take the time to create something beautiful on the digital front. Hope Apple can do better this time around. Already like the newer format of the magazines I’ve been reading in Apple News+.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Most likely scenario: Apple News team are busy and rolling out items from the top (i.e. key publishers first) and dealing with the teething issues there before doing a broad push to all publishers.

    Also PDF is not designed to be an intermediate format and the difference between a PDF which is cleanly readable to scanning software versus one that is not readable is up to the publisher to understand the technicalities on how to export PDFs which contain the necessary structure to make this work for them. Apple is assuming publishers are competent in this regard, let me assure you this would be rare.

    Generally speaking if they're using their online or print PDF outputs for scanning it's not going to work well, those are both optimised in ways that give a hard time to scanning software. They're better to export to an ePub format, or you know - stop being cheap technophobes and invest in proper content management workflows.
    fastasleep
  • Reply 3 of 22
    Most likely scenario: Apple News team are busy and rolling out items from the top (i.e. key publishers first) and dealing with the teething issues there before doing a broad push to all publishers.

    Also PDF is not designed to be an intermediate format and the difference between a PDF which is cleanly readable to scanning software versus one that is not readable is up to the publisher to understand the technicalities on how to export PDFs which contain the necessary structure to make this work for them. Apple is assuming publishers are competent in this regard, let me assure you this would be rare.

    Generally speaking if they're using their online or print PDF outputs for scanning it's not going to work well, those are both optimised in ways that give a hard time to scanning software. They're better to export to an ePub format, or you know - stop being cheap technophobes and invest in proper content management workflows.
    According to the article, it sounds as if publishers thought they were getting Apple assisted solutions.  If Apple was doing a top down roll out, they should have made it clear.  I'm pretty sure no publisher thought: "tech giant is outsourcing template design work to outside vendors".  Again, the article appears to say one thing was promised and another was delivered.  Your take seems to be the publishers are at fault.  I say seems to be, because I may be missing some other context you're conveying.  To me it just appears to be a less than stellar roll out by Apple that could be somewhat mitigated by good communication.
  • Reply 4 of 22
    The News App itself (at least on macOS, but probably also on iOS) has a host of usability issues. The most frustrating issue is that it doesn't scroll smoothly, but rather clunky. If I scroll the mouse wheel below a certain speed, it doesn't scroll the window at all. I can spin my mouse wheel a full 360 degrees in about 5 seconds and that's not fast enough to trigger any scroll motion in the News app. I could name a dozen horrible usability issues like this, like the font changes don't work on the main News pages, but I won't. Even so, I don't plan to cancel my subscription as I have some faith in Apple that they will hear our complaints and fix the issues.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,105member
    I signed up for the free trial but will be cancelling. Maybe I’ll try again and see if the service/app is better in 6 months or a year.
  • Reply 6 of 22
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,597member
    I’m only using News (haven’t taken the bait for News+ just yet), but it has been a goldmine of interesting articles from a wider range of sources than I would normally have found myself. Who knew, for example, that Vogue was doing so much first-class writing and journalism?

    I’ve never seen the scroll issues 23july2016 describes, but I’m not using it on my Mac either (because Marzipan v1 is rather underwhelming, it must be said). Always a good idea to see if the same issues appear on a completely different person’s Mac before assuming Apple is at fault.

    I’m currently in a very busy period (recertification time!) but will check out News+ and TV+ when things calm down. Really looking forward to this year’s WWDC, as there seems to be a lot of stuff bubbling under that I hope will build on the positive experiences I’m having with my Apple gear.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,153member
    Machine Training would be a great way to hide an agenda.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,044member
    I can't sign up for News+ here outside of US, so can't really comment on that, but I do love News. It's my get go Apps every morning and I don't find any of the usability or UI clunky at all, in fact it's always a pleasure to use it for train reading. 
    chasm
  • Reply 9 of 22
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,453member
    I think Apple's got at least two big problems:  arrogance and size.   I think Apple has become so large (even though it's not really that large a product line), that it's become impossible to manage and as time goes on, it seems like it's getting sloppier and sloppier.   I've never had problems with OS updates causing compatibility issues or flaky behavior until recently.   And even though Apple has been warning everyone, I think the crap is really going to hit the fan when the next major OS update kills 32-bit compatibility.    

    In the News app, when I click on presented articles, many of them say they need a subscription to News +.   If that's the case, they shouldn't be presented in the first place IMO.   
  • Reply 10 of 22
    kevin kee said:
    I can't sign up for News+ here outside of US, so can't really comment on that, but I do love News. It's my get go Apps every morning and I don't find any of the usability or UI clunky at all, in fact it's always a pleasure to use it for train reading. 
    So it doesn't bother you that (a) you can't increase the font size on the main page, or (b) you can't reduce those wide empty margins to use the other half of your screen, or (c) save time by searching a news article for a specific word of text, or (d) many of the links in stories are either dead or take you to a web browser where you are denied access because you aren't a subscriber.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Bias on this level sucks. 

    Fix it apple. 
  • Reply 12 of 22
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,597member
    So it doesn't bother you that (a) you can't increase the font size on the main page, or (b) you can't reduce those wide empty margins to use the other half of your screen, or (c) save time by searching a news article for a specific word of text, or (d) many of the links in stories are either dead or take you to a web browser where you are denied access because you aren't a subscriber.

    It would if most of that were true, but of course it's not.

    (I literally just tested every one of your "complaints" and discovered that only the one about a word search was true. Maybe spend a little time learning to use the program?)
    edited April 16 EsquireCats
  • Reply 13 of 22
    chasm said:
    So it doesn't bother you that (a) you can't increase the font size on the main page, or (b) you can't reduce those wide empty margins to use the other half of your screen, or (c) save time by searching a news article for a specific word of text, or (d) many of the links in stories are either dead or take you to a web browser where you are denied access because you aren't a subscriber.

    It would if most of that were true, but of course it's not.

    (I literally just tested every one of your "complaints" and discovered that only the one about a word search was true. Maybe spend a little time learning to use the program?)  

    Even still, it's not like you're trapped into the app - if there are more complicated tasks (including ones that weren't listed) one can copy the contents, or open it in safari, or run a shortcut, or send it to another app etc, etc, etc.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    Even still, it's not like you're trapped into the app - if there are more complicated tasks (including ones that weren't listed) one can copy the contents, or open it in safari, or run a shortcut, or send it to another app etc, etc, etc.
    But you can't copy or select text from the main page. Or from lots of other pages. So all of the ideas you listed are impossible for those pages.
  • Reply 15 of 22
    EsquireCats or maybe Chasm said: 
    (I literally just tested every one of your "complaints" and discovered that only the one about a word search was true. Maybe spend a little time learning to use the program?)  

    Even still, it's not like you're trapped into the app - if there are more complicated tasks (including ones that weren't listed) one can copy the contents, or open it in safari, or run a shortcut, or send it to another app etc, etc, etc.
    I'm curious what purpose it serves to tell someone they are wrong without contributing to the dialog by explaining why they are wrong. I would love to be told why I'm wrong! I can handle the truth! 

    By the way, you can't copy or select text from many of the pages in News app including the home page. I recommend that you try before you conclude otherwise (I hope you are not too embarrassed by that error.)

    Oh, by the way, the News app crashes a lot, even as I was trying to test your unsubstantiated claims. It crashes once an hour. Of course maybe I'm wrong on that too and you can explain why.

    "News quit unexpectedly. Click Reopen to open the application again. Click Report to see more detailed information and send a report to Apple.

    Process:               News [1917]
    Path:                  /Applications/News.app/Contents/MacOS/News
    Identifier:            News
    Version:               4.2 (2074)
    Code Type:             X86-64 (Native)
    Parent Process:        ??? [1]
    Responsible:           News [1917]
    User ID:               501

    Date/Time:             2019-04-16 03:26:08.194 -0400
    OS Version:            Mac OS X 10.14.4 (18E226)
    Report Version:        12"
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 22
    If you know anything about publishing and layout, it's not surprising that repurposing the text/images into a different format would require some additional work and resources to accomplish, regardless of what templates are provided. That's true of ebooks as well. The idea that there's software that is going to automatically convert things and give you a good result without some hands-on refinement doesn't really hold water professionally. I find the complaint about being given a different contact method than other publishers more reasonable than the one about having to direct time/resources to the electronic version of the content. 
  • Reply 17 of 22
    iTunes LP. 
    Newsstand. 
    iAd. 
    Apple Music Connect. 
    iBooks Author. 
    Apple News. 

    All of the above relied upon or still rely upon custom proprietary templates or formats to either use them at all, or to get the best out of them. 

    Apple has a history of starting projects like this, realising that it requires significant ongoing resource, and then losing interest. Content creators are left to put the bulk of the time and effort in without a clear reward or return on investment.

    Naturally, they eventually take Apple’s lead and stop bothering. 

    It’s why much of Apple News’ content is PDF based, why many books in the iBooks store are straight up ePub formats, why many artists can’t be bothered spending time to make special posts for Apple Music Connect in addition to social media posts, why iAd quality and content flopped, and why iTunes LP fell by the wayside even while purchased downloads were at their height of popularity. 

    Meanwhile, apps remain incredibly popular because Apple invests significant time in the development tools and sales/deployment infrastructure necessary for their creation and distribution. 
  • Reply 18 of 22
    SHKSHK Posts: 5member
    Glad I saw this article which confirmed my suspicions of bias and indoctrination which was apparent to me after just a few HOURS of using Apple News.
    I was initially excited about subscribing to this new service, but unfortunately it seems run by idealogues pushing a far left agenda. 

    I cancelled my subscription last week. 
  • Reply 19 of 22
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 837member
    Apple please stick to hardware. As with most huge corporations your desire to "disrupt" to gain more power over another industry will leave that industry in shambles. Has music gotten better since iTunes? Publishers don't need your help and readers can only expect an inferior digital version. 
    gatorguy
  • Reply 20 of 22
    SHK said:
    Glad I saw this article which confirmed my suspicions of bias and indoctrination which was apparent to me after just a few HOURS of using Apple News.
    I was initially excited about subscribing to this new service, but unfortunately it seems run by idealogues pushing a far left agenda. 

    I cancelled my subscription last week. 
    Did you even read the article? 

    It's not about news/content bias.  It's about support "bias" for smaller publications.  Some smaller publishers (5 from the article?) reported that they were not receiving the support they expected, in getting their publications converted for News+ formats.  They claim Apple set the expectation that there would be tons of tools/templates/support/etc.  They claim only the big publications (not based on ideology, but size) are the only ones receiving the support as expected.
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