AMITIAE - Saturday 14 November 2015

Cassandra: Apple's News App and a More Level Playing Field

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


In a recent article by Lucia Moses on Digiday, "Publishers are underwhelmed with Apple News app", there seem to be a number of complaints being aired by major sources, such as the Time and other unnamed titles, that the Apple News app is not giving them the instant gratification they were looking for. As this is a new twist on a couple of old tricks, it means that - out of the box - not every consumer is likely to realise the benefits that such an app might bring.

As soon as the idea of the News app was aired and information was released by Apple, I signed my site up for the service and was accepted quite early. I am unable to say too much as the app is not available in this country, but a local user who was visiting home switched his region settings to USA and sent me a couple of links to articles I had written which were appearing in the main feed: For You. This section includes those sites that Apple personnel have selected; this gives me an equal footing with the big boys. I found this encouraging.

My eXtensions articles could also be found using Search and he added them to his own Favourites section. The News App is now available in Australia and the UK as well as America and by changing the region settings (say to UK), the News app does become available. However, other settings (such as currency) may not suit the individual user. Some features may not be available all the time as this is still a service being developed.

The frustration expressed by Time (and others) sounds more like sour grapes. Perhaps they were expecting some form of magic bullet. Considering that it was initially only available in the USA and has only recently been opened up to two additional countries, the chance of there being as many hits as would come via the world wide web via normal channels is understandably smaller.

What it is doing however, as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) tends to allow, is to allow an even playing field for other sites: for example those like mine that might not otherwise have a look-in.

It is clear from the site statistics (Google ads) that initially, hits from mobile devices - especially tablet computers - rose significantly. Although this was only for users in the USA and the few beta testers of iOS who were running the News app, the upward surge in numbers was encouraging. I expect this will only improve.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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