How Apple News+ Service Rates Among Other News Apps

Apple News+ is a service that makes an entire newsstand of content — including that of mainstream publications — available to subscribers. There are limits; a section from The Wall Street Journal, for example, only offers a handful of stories. However, Apple says a deeper search in WSJ’s News channel will reveal “everything from the last three days” thanks to an agreement with WSJ’s publisher Dow Jones. Apple stated News+ will evolve as publishers avail themselves of tools to create new reader experiences. The service will compete with apps including Flipboard, Nuzzel, SmartNews and others.

WSJ reports that News+ is “a handy way to get a quick sense of what’s happening” via access to 300+ titles for a mere $10 per month fee. “The pricing seems compelling,” says WSJ, for “access to hundreds of titles for less than what you’d pay for three issues a month at the newsstand.”

The subscription, however, “doesn’t get you behind The New Yorker’s paywall or access to the ESPN+ video content,” but simply “a cache of magazine issues, refreshed regularly.” Although most publications are optimized for the Apple News app, others are just magazine PDFs, “basically digital scans of each page of the issue … [which] forces iPhone readers to constantly pan and zoom.”

By laying out every story the same, however, the stories lack their “unique designs and art that make magazines great,” and listing articles’ print titles only in the table of contents strips them of context. The News+ app will save the reader’s place, but will only do so for one magazine at a time and won’t allow an article to be saved for later perusal. The reader also cannot change the font or text size or turn on dark mode, as Apple “clearly prefers to leave the designing to the magazine designers.”

The WSJ reporter recommends other news-centric apps: Flipboard allows the user to subscribe to individual “magazines” that have been curated by staff or users. “Or just tell Flipboard you’re super into rock climbing and old cheeses, and it’ll serve up all the best stuff to read.” Another recommendation, Nuzzel, lets the user log in with Twitter and/or Facebook accounts and “combs your social media feeds and grabs the articles people are sharing, ranked by popularity.”

SmartNews is another app that culls stories and then sorts them by categories such as Entertainment or Politics. Google News and Microsoft News also offer products similar to Apple News, wherein “a constantly changing, human- and algorithm-driven” selection provides stories presenting differing sides of an issue.

WSJ also suggests using Apple News and to “just ignore the News+ tab.” “If Apple had found a way to integrate daily news, longer-form magazine stuff and maybe even podcasts and video into a single place with a superior consumption experience, I could see it being worth the price of a Spotify subscription,” the reporter concluded. “I suspect that’s what Apple is working toward. As it is now, though, News+ feels like a product several years too late.”

Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple, The New York Times, 4/2/19

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