September 14, 2015 Last Updated 11:14 am

Apple News handicapped by the team that is running the show anonymously in the background

With app set to debut in two days, only a few publishers have been able to customize their channels within the app, as Apple continues its policies used with the Newsstand of picking and choosing its favorites among media brands

If publishers thought Apple News would be a good alternative to the Newsstand they will be very sorely disappointed come Wednesday. Apple News may be open to publishers to sign up, but the same App Store team that limited Newsstand promotion to a small subset of publications are doing the same within the Apple News app.

AppleNews-startUpon opening Apple News the iOS device owner is presented with a number of media brands to choose from – the user must pick one in order to proceed. From there one can later add other channels, but these channels are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the select group of partners that Apple has anointed.

For huge advantage Apple has giving these brands is access to the Apple News Format since at least June (probably even before that as Apple wanted to show off Apple News at WWDC). But while Apple has allowed other publishers to sign up for Apple News, they have purposely limited access to the new platform, despite it being ten weeks since they were informed that they would be part of Apple News. All Apple has allowed those publishers to do so far is add feeds.

The result is that only those select few media brands preferred by Apple have been able to customize their content and make their stories look presentable within Apple News. That means some of the content looks nice within the app, the rest looks like what one might expect from an RSS reader.

I find this utterly sad, because the app has potential.

For instance, doing a search for “iOS 9” within the app pulls up the latest story – TNM’s own Morning Brief that talks about iOS 9 and the gold master available for developers. You think that makes me happy, but it doesn’t. TNM looks terrible compared to other media sites because the content has not been customized.

AN-iPhone6-380For other media brands that have added their content, they probably have not had a chance to look at what their content really looks like inside the app. Many brands, for instance, routinely use RSS feeds that only present a summary of the story. These publishers may choose to retain this, as the stories will still be seen, but will force the reader out to tap the link and leave the app to read the story on their website. But my guess is that others will see this and immediately want to change their settings.

Apple is once again playing games with a digital news product and once again publishers look like they will be at the mercy of the App Store team in order to get fair treatment – if history is any judge, they should not expect to receive it. I think, in the end, this will limit the usefulness of the app for both publishers and readers alike.

It doesn’t help that Apple’s icon for the app is so ugly, but I suppose that is a minor complaint compared to its that involving the Apple News Format. But things are not starting off well, and if Apple’s commitment to maintaining the Newsstand is any guide, one cannot expect Apple to pay much attention to Apple News once it has launched officially on Wednesday. They will, as they often do, simply move on to the Next Big Thing.

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