I’ve been using Apple News for the past few weeks and have come to the conclusion that it can combat fake-news, make you smarter and buoy the News Publishing Industry all at once! Okay, thats’s definitely a hot take, but let me dig in 🙂
Breadth and Trust
It’s an aggregator so one can find many news sources all in one spot – I have tremendous respect for outlets like WSJ, NYT, WaPo (and have their respective apps installed), but an aggregator is more time efficient. I see headlines from the likes of Politico, Fox News and The New Yorker, so I feel I’m getting a representative collection of viewpoints out there(no matter how much you agree or disagree ;-). There seems to be some sort of ‘approval’ process to become a Publisher and I’m going to assume you won’t see any articles from Heart of Texas and Being Patriotic, two Facebook groups that posted heavily about the 2016 election and were ultimately found to be created by our Russian friends.
Media, but not Social
The fact that there’s no social component to Apple News gives me most hope about fighting fake news and false information. So even if some questionable ‘publications’ do make it onto the App, there’s no chance that your crazy Uncle would amplify the articles by sharing. I probably get most of my news from Twitter and I love the timeliness that comes with so many individuals contributing to the platform, but it gets exhausting and overwhelming(Kanye, anyone?). Apple News updates only when there are new articles — there are no hot takes or ugly Twitter fights; it’s actually quite refreshing!
Machines don’t rule
Now you are served up articles based on what you read and you can choose news from specific channels, so there is still a chance for filter-bubbles to form. Apple News hedges against this (whether by design or not) with ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Spotlight.’ Top Stories are articles of interest to the reader (based on your reading history), but picked by Human Editors – so even if you’re not getting a diverse set of topics, I’m guessing the editors are choosing from a wide variety of sources. And Spotlight is the Editors going in-depth about a trending topic that’s not based on what you’ve been reading.
Apple News adopts ‘The Feed’ as the main interaction paradigm and using it gives the endless stream of content feel of a Social App. Throw in the pull-to-refresh and some notifications, and you have all the mechanics of a Social App without some of the terrible stuff. So in addition to actually learning things, Apple News has been helping me wean myself off my Twitter and Instagram habit. It’s like drinking Diet Coke – same-ish great taste, less immediate damage to your health, but probably some long-term consequences that we just don’t know about yet 😛
Now people aren’t going to give up their Social Networks and just use Apple News instead. You’re on Facebook and Instagram because your friends are there and Twitter provides a Community of like-minded individuals around specific interests (when it’s not terrible). It’s not a substitute at all. But with Facebook de-prioritizing News in the Feed and Public trust in Facebook falling, I feel people will look to alternatives to stay informed. And if you must stay on your phone, Apple News is a worthy place to transfer some of your digital time-spent.
What About the Supply-Side (Publishers)?
So I’ve made some fairly compelling arguments for Apple News from the Consumer’s perspective, but what’s in it for the Publishers? Well, power of the defaults is, well, really powerful. Just look at Apple Maps usage on iOS as an example. Apple News’s ability to reach the entire iOS installed base is pretty compelling if you are a Publisher. Now reach is great, but can Apple News deliver revenue?
That remains to be seen, but I feel there isn’t the same conflict of interest between Apple and Publishers as there is between Facebook and Publishers. Facebook and most of its Publisher partners share the same business model and monetize users in the same way – getting you to spend more time with their content for as long and as often as possible. So why would Facebook prioritize a Publisher’s business over Facebook’s own business? They have no incentive to do this when Supply (News) is fairly commoditized and they can just plug in similar content for their algorithm to optimize time-spent. And Facebook has already realized the value of using Supplier’s content to attract additional users – so much so that de-prioritizing News from the feed had no material impact to their advertising business. Facebook effectively demonstrated they no longer need Publishers.
Apple, meanwhile, makes most of their money from your device purchases, so a News product from them can afford to put the Publisher ‘first’. So Apple’s core business-model inherently makes them less of a competitor to Publishers when compared to Facebook. A better Apple News App helps Apple improve iOS ecosystem lock-in at worst and increases Services Revenue(advertising and subscription revenue sharing) at best. I’d be naive to think Apple doesn’t want to make as much Revenue as possible from this initiative – as device upgrade cycles start to elongate and device sales growth starts to slow, they certainly want to diversify sources of Revenue. But Apple News is just a portion of this – there’s also the App Store, Apply Pay, iCloud, and Music just to name a few. Media is a part of Apple’s business, but it isn’t a Media Business. And as a Publisher who monetizes time and attention, I’d rather partner with someone whose business model isn’t monetizing my customers’ time and attention.
Time will tell how this relationship works out, but for both News-Seekers and News-Publishers, Apple News is an upgrade on present company.