Apple News - Mass Aggregation

“News collects all the stories you want to read — so you no longer need to move from app to app to stay informed… it’s easier than ever to find the stories that matter most to you.” -apple.com

Released with IOS9 Apple News replaced their existing app, Newsstand. Apple news is an IOS mobile app that lets readers access content from topics, websites and publishers all in one big pile. Articles from Wired, Time, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, DailyMail, along with any and all news/content publishers appear in a giant feed “organized” by topic and what the app thinks readers might like.

But before we get too far into figuring this beast out, lets step back and take a look at what might have brought this Hydra-like app into existence. Apple’s first go at an IOS native news app was Newsstand. It was released in 2011 and behaved more like a folder than an app. Readers could access their publications within Newsstand (much like a newsstand on the street). Articles were only read inside of individual publications.

Apple news took that idea of collecting publications like Newsstand and really ran with it and the biggest update to the redesign is that now the majority of the app looks and works like the cover page of a newspaper. Multiple headlines and the right amount of bait to get you into the article, except that articles and headlines are from competing publishers.

It is not a new idea for a news app to behave like a mass content feed, thats what news is. Nor is the idea of aggregation from a wide variety of publishers #facebook.
Readers can still access content from specific publishers through the Favorites tab.

They still allow readers to access content based on publisher, it is just a little more complicated to get to. To access publisher “home” pages they either have to be added to the favorites tab or navigated to from one of their articles. This is really the only part of the app that bares some resemblance to it’s predecessor. Once inside the publisher’s page the content can be organized into sub categories, much like sections of a newspaper, or can be all lumped together into one page. It depends on publishers preference.

Upon its first release developing and publishing on Apple News was only available to partnered publishers. As of 2016 they released Apple News Publisher Beta to the public. The publisher tools are available through iCloud to anyone who has an apple ID. You don’t even need the paid developer account like you would to publish an app to the Appstore.

Once inside their tools, creating content is easy with template controls they provide for you. Advanced users can have as much control over the look and feel of the site as they want. This is because the app works by pulling in news stories through syndication feeds or from news publishing partners using the JSON descriptive Apple News Format.

An issue of consistency.

While the Apple News platform is well and good, there are a few concerns about ease of use and consistency. It is too easy to get lost in the huge masses of content and it is hard to find your way back. It is like opening a wormhole and accidently walking into it. You never know where you are going to end up or how to retrace your steps.

Another issue is that while giving publishers access to modify their content to match their brand and style it makes sense for websites but it makes for an extremely inconsistent experience for an app. The other side of that would be something like medium which controls content to almost a restrictive degree, but, their experience is visually consistent across the board.

In conclusion, Apple news is a good platform. If, you want huge amounts of content, specifically current events, at your fingertips and have time to sift though it, Apple News might be your app.

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