August 17, 2015 Last Updated 7:10 am

Apple nears iOS 9 release, issues beta 5 of software, still no update on Apple News Format, though

Morning Brief: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reacts New York Times piece on working conditions at his company, writing that if the accusations are true anyone ‘would be crazy to stay’

Last week Apple released beta 5 for its next generation of iOS, iOS 9, which will be released to the public in September. Most observers expect the next iPhone event will be on September 9, with new versions of the iPhone and likely an updated Apple TV announced. Hope for a streaming TV service seems to have vanished as Bloomberg reported that difficult negotiations will prevent the service from launching until some time next year.

news-publisherBut will be launched is the new Apple News app, and things don’t seem to be going so well there, either. Yes, plenty of publishers have likely signed up for the new feature, but since WWDC’s introduction and a short review period, Apple has not bee heard from. The Apple News Format remains “coming soon”, which means it is likely that Apple News will launch with most news organizations not able to improve the look of their offerings.

The great fear publishers have is that Apple News is just another Apple app, like those others iPhone buyers get with their new devices and quickly drag into folders to be forgotten. Few iPhone users prefer Apple’s own apps for weather, stocks, notes, videos…

The Apple News app, which launched, will not have a Mac version (at least none has been launched) and will not be available in every country, already crippling its usefulness.

I’m beginning to think the reason Apple has a hard time sustaining any moment for its projects is that there is a team of developers tied to the product, but not marketing staff. The team creates a new product, it gets included with the overall platform and then that is the end of it, especially if members of the team are moved to new projects. No one has a vested interest in the future success and development of the project.

At CPGs – those food brands – there are dedicated marketing teams who are responsible for the promotion and growth of the product. The best thing about the model is that these team members live and die with their products. The bad side is that sometimes there are teams supporting bad products, and until the members are laid off or transferred, there is the overhead that must be paid for by the company. But at least someone is responsible for promoting the new product.

At Apple, new features like the Newsstand come and are quickly forgotten. Jeremy Horwitz from 9to5Mac talked about the failure of the Newsstand and his hopes for Apple News. He touched on the reasons he saw for the Newsstand’s failure:

Unfortunately, despite support from thousands of leading publications, and an untold number of subscribers around the world, Newsstand effectively collapsed. Apple unilaterally broke some of its core functionality in iOS 7, hobbling the notifications system and shifting to a flat, boring icon that obscured the publications inside. It also de-emphasized Newsstand-supported publications in the App Store, and appeared to be unwilling to resolve longstanding publisher complaints about subscriptions. As a final step, Apple completely removed the special Newsstand folder in iOS 9, leaving former Newsstand apps to fend for themselves in the App Store and find new ways to alert readers to updates.

That’s about right: whenever a company like Apple (or Facebook or others) creates a new product for publishers, there is always that fear that the company will soon lose interest and move on. Apple did with the Newsstand, and there is no reason to think that their interest in Apple News will be anything but fleeting.

The New York Times ran a very critical article about Amazon on Saturday – Inside Amazon: Wrestling BigIdeas in a Bruising Workplace – which, to be honest, didn’t really break any news about work conditions at the online retailer. But the length and depth of the article was new, and readers appear to be appalled by what they read, with nearly 3,600 comments so far on the story.

amazon-bezos-300Amazon appears to be a God awful place to work, but many already knew that. The NYT’s story, though, concentrates on the white collar jobs rather than the distribution center positions.

Amazon is an easy target for the Times – its CEO owns The Washington Post and is an investor in BusinessInsider. The source of the story is mostly former employees, and so those that may have an axe to grind.

But Amazon also is an easy target. It remains only marginally profitable, while its CEO has become enormously wealthy. But as many media companies are run by generations of the same family, it does recall the saying people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Bezos certainly can’t like what he read, even if he really wants a workplace as described in the NYT article. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on the company. So he sent out a memo to employees to a address issues raised by the article.

The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems,” Bezos writes in a memo obtained by GeekWire. “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.”

Bezos then invites employees to write him an email if they have concerns. Unfortunately, it seems highly unlikely the Amazon CEO would be able to read the emails as his address is so open – he must get thousands of emails a day at it.

But at least Bezos admits that the company described in the NYT piece would be considered an awful place to work.

“The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard,” Bezos writes. “I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.”

  • Graham 1 year ago

    Without wishing to blow our own trumpet too much, there are actually solutions for publishers concerned about how their content will look in Apple News. We at Page Lizard anticipated this would be an issue and have various options for publishers to edit/style content in our CMS before pushing out to Apple News.