Apple News is an app that aggregates multiple news sources, blogs, breaking stories, video publications, magazines, and newspapers into one feed. Users can follow different outlets and have them appear in the news feed, which is sorted by topic and publisher. The app is also home to News+, Apple's subscription service for premium news content.
● Human-curated news
● Personalized news feed
● Unique and exclusive format
● Audio version of articles
● Zero data sharing with third parties
● News+ Subscription for premium content
● Available across all Apple devices
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Apple News debuted with iOS 9 as a replacement for Newsstand. Using RSS and publication feeds, the app gathers articles from across the web and sorts them into a news feed.
Users can subscribe to their preferred publications, like or dislike articles, and save stories for offline reading. Apple prides itself on offering a private and human-curated news resource for its users.
What is Apple News?
Where RSS ruled the early days of the web, news aggregators stepped up to take over by offering users algorithmic news feeds. This approach requires the user to invest less time finding what they want to read. Apple took a specific approach to this and created a new format, Apple News Format, to specifically cater to iOS readers. Device optimized articles, rich media, and uncluttered reading were all key components of the new platform.
Apple offers some advertising in the app, but it's otherwise a clean feed of articles sorted by topics. Apple's human editors select Top News sections, and relevant topics will surface based on the reader's history of reading, liking, and saving.
The app gathers the data with a random identifier that can be reset at any time, so users don't need to feel like they are being tracked.
The app has several sections, which are presented differently depending on which device you are using. On iPad and Mac, all the different areas are in the sidebar, and on iPhone, there is a small navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.
The Today tab shows your personalized news feed. From here, you can see all of the articles sorted based on your interests.
Sections like For You offer specifically curated information based on what you like. Editors curate Top Stories to offer an overview of what's happening right now. Channels and topics show up as individual sections, containing all the relevant articles to that topic, even if they oppose each other.
News+ is its own tab, containing all the subscription services content. From here, you can choose to follow certain magazines or newspapers and browse their content.
Premium articles and magazines display in an optimized format with rich media throughout. Other publications that do not follow the news app format will show up as full-page scans of the magazines. Apple News+ is a premium service and costs $9.99 per month for a family subscription.
The Following tab shows you which channels and topics you follow, and what your saved stories and history are. From here you can manage what shows up on your Today view or see a specific channel's page with only its articles showing. Saved Stories act as a repository for your favorite articles. However, it does not save them for offline reading.
How to personalize Apple News
When you first start out using Apple's news app, it displays content based on popular news and publications. To start seeing curation, you will need to follow several of your favorite publishers and topics. When reading an article, you can like it to show that you find it relevant, or dislike it to see fewer articles from that topic or channel.
From the Today view, press and hold an article to access the share sheet. From there, you can perform further tasks like blocking channels or reporting spam or broken stories. The share sheet from within articles works the same way.
Apple wants its news service to avoid fake news and information bubbles, so don't expect to see the same views represented throughout.
By default, the app shows you all the content it can in an abbreviated format to get pages loaded quicker. These can be changed in settings to gain more control over the feed. De-select "show story previews" to always launch directly into the story and avoid the reduced preview screen.
If you only want to see the news publications you follow and avoid any world stories or politics, for example, toggle on "restrict stories in today." This will make the Apple News app function a little more like a personal RSS reader, rather than a full news app.
Apple News in the news
Apple has slowly shown more and more interest in not only curating news but participating in it. Its editorial staff now writes articles in the Newsroom quite frequently, and Apple has a dedicated team writing stories in the App Store.
Apple has tried its hand at hosting large political events like the 2018 midterms. During the midterms, Apple News had a prominently featured section dedicated to midterm election updates. During the 2020 election and its aftermath, the Today feed permanently displayed Electoral College tallies and links to collated election coverage.
Apple News has also been somewhat controversial. Apple wants publishers to be on the platform but offers little incentive. The app offers curation via human editors, but this means a story can live or die based on what they choose to feature.
Major publishers see decent reader numbers, but because of the lack of heavy advertising, revenue isn't especially high. Smaller publications don't find a lot of traction on the platform, and revenue is sparse.
Despite all of this, Apple continues to boast that its news service is growing.
In 2011, Apple launched Newsstand, an app that presented magazine and newspaper subscriptions in a skeuomorphic bookshelf. This replaced the many individual apps that publishers had been designing for iPad. Apple's goal was to help users manage all of their subscriptions in one place.
One problem was that these publications still needed to develop and support apps, which they would have to pay developers to make.
In 2014, Apple acquired Prss, a company that created a web app for creating digital magazines. It also allowed the digital issues to download in much smaller sizes. This acquisition led directly to the creation of Apple News format and the app. The News app launched with iOS 9 in 2015. In 2018, Apple acquired Texture, a digital magazine service that the company appeared to use as a foundation for Apple News+.
The Apple News service saw fast adoption, which was unsurprising given its status as a built in-app. Just one month after its release, Apple claimed 40 million active users. This number continues to climb each year.
Apple News and its design haven't significantly changed since the 2015 release. Apple added the app to macOS in 2018 as one of the first Mac Catalyst apps, and since the update included a system-wide dark mode, the News app got it too. iOS and iPadOS released with system-wide dark mode in 2019 as well, adding it to the Apple News app, and making the design uniform across the ecosystem.
In July 2020, Apple added an audio component to its news platform in several areas. A new daily news brief called "Apple News Today" hosted by Humita Basu and Duarte Geraldino is available from the app in a new audio tab and on Apple Podcasts.
Along with the daily briefing, professional voice actors read premium articles from several News+ publications. Apple’s editor-in-chief of Apple News, Lauren Kern, is excited about the work her team has done for the audio feature.
"Apple News showcases so much great journalism, and we're excited to help bring it to life in new ways with Apple News+ audio stories and a new daily news show, Apple News Today. We also greatly value our many local news partners — our new local news feature highlights their work for readers who live, and are interested, in those communities."
A curated selection of local news will begin being served as well. It is unclear how far the local news segments will spread, but the initiative will start in larger cities like Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
Apple has also added the News app to CarPlay. The audio segments will be available from the app while driving.
It is yet to be seen if Apple News+ will be a success, given its struggle to retain users and its relatively high price. Despite low subscription retention rates, publications on News+ still saw more traffic to their content. This increased traffic did not increase revenue, however, due to how Apple pays participating publishers.
Apple News+ Review
A month after launch, AppleInsider looked at the pros and cons of Apple's premium news service.
"Apple News+ will be an Apple Music-like success and not a Ping-like failure only if there is enough in it for enough people to enjoy enough. The range of titles, the way you read them, the whole experience is crucial and Apple News+ has a lot going for it.
"Firstly, every magazine has both its own topic page and its issues. The topic page has news stories from the publisher, plus it's headed by not just the current magazine, but an entire year's worth of back issues.
"Being able to always get the latest issue is a big point in favor of Apple News+ because if you're interested in even one title, you're getting it faster than through the mail. If you're regularly interested in more than one, the $9.99 US or $12.99 Canadian subscription cost is a bargain.
"And then the back issues are a huge factor. You can get enjoyably lost going back through these twelve months of articles and that's what helps you become steadily more hooked on the service. When you first open it, you can be unsure that there's anything you want to read, but then as you dig further, you are more and more rewarded.
"That's partly because there are just some world-class magazines on here and you'll come to see which ones you like. However, it's also because Apple News+ also learns what you like and presents stories to you in that irresistible just-one-more fashion.
"What's more, when you find an issue you're interested in, you can very quickly be reading it. Despite their being full of gorgeous double-page spread graphic designs, you don't have to wait for all of that to download before you can start reading. It works in the background, bringing you true magazine quality reading, but without delays."
"If you're having trouble deleting downloaded magazine issues on your iOS device, then at least you found something worth downloading first. With such a mass of material and such a range, it's extremely unlikely that there won't be anything you want to read — but finding it is hard.
"It's also buggy. At times, if you search for a magazine title, you may get just a topic page. That's a collection of news articles and it's typically what you'd see if a publisher doesn't want to put the entire issue onto the service. And yet if you search again, you can end up with that topic page plus the issues at the top.
"Instead of searching, you could be methodical and check out the comprehensive Apple News+ catalog of magazines. Except this entire and complete catalog is not entire or complete. For no reason that we can fathom, some titles disappear from the catalog — and it's not that they disappeared from the service.
"That's annoying to us as readers, but it's got to be maddening for publishers.
"Those publishers are still trying to find the best ways to offer their magazine's content, too. Which means there are two or three different ways of navigating through an issue. You do get used to the different ways, but you are also regularly tapping where you think the Next page button is.
"Some publishers have taken to listing a kind of bare contents page with just headlines that you can tap to leap to articles. Others have gone for an aesthetic that shows every page in a thumbnail view. That's definitely much more visually appealing, but finding the article you want is far, far harder.
"Some of this also contributes to how you're definitely better off reading Apple News+ on an iPad instead of the smaller screen of an iPhone.
"You're also better off finishing reading that interesting article now. You can't bookmark an article to come back to. And even though the app does remember the recent magazines you read, it specifically remembers the magazines. Not the issue.
"Over time, you find that you do build up a set of titles that you read a lot and you can have those all listed in the sidebar navigation. You just can't reorder that list and soon it's so long and so disorganized that you ignore it."
Texture comparison and influence
"Texture was an app and a service whereby you could read magazines and newspapers on various devices. Apple bought it, shut down the Windows side, then rebranded it, and worked Texture into its existing News app to create Apple News+.
"The general consensus is that Texture was better. It is certainly true that a cross-platform service is better for us all than one solely reserved for Apple devices.
"Yet there's also been a claim that Texture's navigation, how you found the magazines you wanted, was better than it is now on Apple News+. We don't buy that because we've found some oddities in how Texture cataloged its magazines. Mind you, Apple's new service has exactly the same problems.
"Where it's simply wrong to say that Texture was better, is in the number of magazines you could read. Both Texture and the new Apple service have boasted hundreds of magazines, but in Texture's case it was pretty close to exactly 200.
"While the magazines included on both Texture and the new Apple service vary by region — and Texture had two tiers of subscription offering different sets of titles — we have tried comparing them. It looks to us as if Texture had around 22 magazine titles that Apple News+ does not, and Apple News+ has about 75 titles that Texture didn't.
"Apple has added more titles to do with music, art, technology and sport. Its most significant additions are Scientific American plus BBC titles such as its science and gardening ones. The magazines it has lost since Texture closed include pretty big titles such as Smithsonian and GQ Style.
"Yet Apple News+ has GQ. And while it doesn't have Martha Stewart Weddings, it has Martha Stewart Living. You can expect publishers who are trying out one title will bring in their others if the service is successful enough."