April 24, 2015 Last Updated 10:24 am

Apple Watch App Store opens, discoverability issue will continue to dog media companies

Apple promotes only ten news apps, despite the best efforts of media companies to make sure their apps were ready for the launch of the Apple Watch App Store

The Guardian and other newspapers who worked hard to make sure their apps all were updated to add Apple Watch support can’t be happy with the new App Store opened for the smartwatch. Discoverability, always a problem in the iPad and iPhone stores, especially in the Newsstand, is even worse in the new Apple Watch App Store.

AW-AppStore-iPhone6In the past, when Apple opened up its devices to third party apps, the number of apps launched were small. Only a handful of newspapers and magazines, for instance, were ready for the launch of the iPad App Store in April of 2010. But Apple made sure developers were ready for the Apple Watch and over 3,000 apps were in the store by last night.

But volume is not the only difference between the launch of the AW store and the other device stores. With the iPhone and iPad stores, at launch every developer got their moment in the sun with users able to see All apps listed by release date. That meant that if you launched a News app that for at least one day you would show up on the home page of that category.

But the Apple Watch store is not organized that way. Instead the emphasis is on the “Featured” apps – as it has been for a while in all the App Stores. Under the News category that means only ten apps are seen, with The New York Times, as usual, listed first. Other apps featured are CNN, Yahoo News Digest, The Wall Street Journal, Overcast: Podcast Player (from Marco Arment who says Apple doesn’t favor his apps), BuzzFeed, Instapaper, Circa News and Flipboard. Yes, traditional news outlets got screwed… again.

Searching for “news” using the search mechanism only resulted in 40 apps coming up, all in what looked like a random order (CNN came up first this time). Noticeably missing were the apps from Tribune Publishing (LA Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.) – is the fault of Tribune developers who failed to include “news” in the keywords, or Apple?

Apple is hugely dependent on its developer base to populate its app stores, to make its hardware products attractive due to the number of apps it can offer. But Apple then is pretty selective when it comes to what it wants device owners to see, leaving it up to the developers themselves to try and figure out how to promote their apps. It matters not that device owners download a million copies of just a couple apps, or a million copies of a lot of different apps, just that they download the apps.

Tech journalist Glenn Fleishman, who used to publish The Magazine, is going on a bit of a Twitter tirade today, and it is hard to blame him. He is complaining that he didn’t get his Apple Watch today so he could review it. My guess is that he bought it himself, otherwise he would already have one to use.

His complaint, completely valid, is that Apple picks and chooses who it wants to favor – and I think he agrees that they have that right.

“It’s just one of those tiring things trying to cover a company that stage manages everything and is prickly about criticism,” Fleishman wrote.”There is literally no other company that handles press like Apple, and the press would tolerate it from no other company.”

He’s right. And he’s also right about the spineless tech press that tolerates this shit.

  • Apple Watch app Developer 3 years ago

    Hi, I am an independent developer who worked hard for the last months to have my apps ready for the Apple Watch launch date. I am reading your article and I am also really dissapointed because none of my ELEVEN apps are visible to the users (even by searching the specified keywords). My apps belong to different categories and almost none of them are in the rankings (some are in the last position of the search results). You belong to a media company, and you can write this article and show your frustation, but we (the developers) can’t do anything to avoid this unfair situation. New store, new rankings but always the same result, the big ones and friends first…