January 10, 2017 Last Updated 4:37 pm

Apple PR and App Store transparency remains a major problem for publishers

The company that this week should be celebrating the unveiling of the first iPhone, is instead reinforcing the notion that it doesn’t want to hear from the media… except when it wants their attendance at its product events

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone unveiling event. It should be a week we celebrate the brilliance of the company and its revolutionary product. But maybe it is the ongoing debacle going on in Congress (the cabinet confirmation hearings), or maybe the freaky weather (snow in Athens, 50 degrees and rain in Chicago), but this doesn’t feel like a good week to say anything nice about Apple.

First, of course, there was the news that Apple pulled The New York Times apps from the Chinese App Store without much explanation. Maybe Apple told the Times more than either the newspaper or Apple want to acknowledge. But we have been left with either the wholly unsatisfying explanation it gave the Times – the apps were in “violation of local regulations” – or the explanation that came out of The Washington Post – that the action took place after the NYT contacted Apple about a potentially embarrassing story.

“(T)he fact that the move was made on the same day a New York Times reporter contacted Apple about a potentially embarrassing story for the California-based company — as well as the fact that other international news apps were unaffected — has raised doubts about the precise motives behind the action,” the Post said last week.

This is a problem caused by the fact that the App Store is behind a firewall, with no access except via email or personal relationships. I’m sure someone at the NYT knows someone at Apple who can maneuver through the byzantine world of Apple, but most publishers don’t – and as one can see with the NYT case, it probably doesn’t matter anyways.

Then there is the way publishers and the public see Apple through their response to the Consumer Reports’s look at the new MacBook Pro.

The new laptop is something the company shouldn’t be crowing about, in general. The company continues to sacrifice battery life for aesthetics and performance, and then expects the media to ooh and ahhh. Much of it does, and Apple is happy about it, but few take that portion of the tech media very seriously these days so many Apple should get a clue.

In any case, Apple tried to discredit Consumer Reports, then quietly admitted that it had a Safari bug to work out.

Marco Arment wrote today that “Apple’s tone and framing here, and in most recent PR statements where they’re on the defensive, rubs me the wrong way.” He then goes on to remind Apple that “nothing about a battery-life test truly reflects real-world usage. Battery tests are approximations, designed to mimic the most common tasks but in an artificial, automated, repetitive way for hours on end to get reproducible results.”

I haven’t even attempted to reach out to Apple’s media team in two years, so conditioned have I been to never receive a response, so why bother? Meanwhile, I have talked to a large number of other Apple employees about the App Store, and the way publishers are treated, showing them what I see, and watching as they react in horror. I think I’ve only managed to sully the view of the employees because it has accomplished nothing, we are entering the fourth year with the subcategories of the App Store broken in the former Newsstand category, now name Magazines & Newspapers.

From what I am hearing, publishers are giving up on Apple. I know I expect nothing more from the company so long as the current management team remains in place. The publishing liaison position I have called for has not been created, and we all remain waiting for the iTunes redesign or replacement promised many, many years ago now.

It has been ten years since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Apple was a very different company then, one capable of so much – and it delivered so much like the iPad, the App Store, iBooks, iBooks Author, etc. Today, we just want an explanation when our apps are pulled, or a civil tone when a review is responded to, or even a call back or an email. Is that too much to ask?

Yes, it is. We all know it. It is why we’ve moved on. Apple just doesn’t know it.

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