The way we consume news is changing at a rapid pace, and both Apple and Twitter are trying to cater to readers’ need for speed and convenience.
iOS 9’s new Apple News app and the recently launched Twitter Moments both exist because millennials aren’t reading the newspaper every morning or watching news broadcasts in the evening. We get our news primarily from the Internet, often without having to click on articles or read hundreds of words for context.
Online media’s big push toward keeping news relevant and immediate caters to our ever-shrinking attention spans. For better or worse, we’ve gravitated toward bite-size information and entertaining listicles.
Twitter figured that out long ago. Apple still hasn’t.
From the rise of content blockers in iOS 9 to Donald Trump tweeting during the Democrats’ presidential debate, media in the modern era is being constantly reshaped by technology. Access to information has never been more immediate, and skirting traditional editorial gatekeepers has never been easier.
From its inception, Twitter has been a powerful force, giving anyone the ability to share information and instant insights directly with the masses. Twitter Moments reinforces this move toward radical immediacy, while Apple News seems intent on putting the genie back in the staid bottle of neatly manicured news.
I find myself using Twitter Moments pretty frequently, even though it’s only been available to the public for about a week. I often tap “moments” that I probably wouldn’t read if the same story were presented as a longform article on the front page of The New York Times.
Earlier this week I browsed different photos and short videos from all around Italy’s capital city in the Explore Rome moment. The Times could have written an extensive piece detailing each and every fascinating part of Rome, packaged it with superb photography, and I still would have preferred this tiny, unobtrusive collection of tweets. That’s because Twitter Moments consolidates a ton of information into small, convenient highlights — and they’re built into an app I already use.
Apple News just doesn’t get it
Apple’s new app, on the other hand, takes a sharply different approach. Apple News‘ big grabber is supposed to be that you can tailor news to your liking and read only from sources or about topics that interest you. But you still have to read the full articles if you want to get anything out of that.
I used Flipboard briefly when it came out in 2010, but quickly realized I didn’t care for the whole concept of personalizing news.
First of all, people can’t get multiple perspectives only reading from the sources they like most. Secondly, flipping through a personalized magazine started to get overwhelming when I had all these articles I wanted to read in one place and not enough time to read them all. So I’d scan through Flipboard and just read certain stories, which defeats the purpose of a personalized magazine if you think about it.
I’ve legitimately used Apple News probably three or four times since I installed iOS 9. I’ve opened the app a lot more than that just to see if I like it yet — and every time, it’s a no.
The truth is, I only open Apple News when I have free time because using it feels far more tedious than using Twitter Moments. Plus, I really just open it because I feel compelled to use Apple’s newest app (which was conveniently loaded onto the Home screens of my iPhone and iPad.)
Both Twitter and Apple employ teams of curators for their news offerings (Apple uses some automation as well), so article summarization is far from impossible for the Apple News app.
And yet Apple News doesn’t summarize articles and doesn’t integrate with other apps. It’s basically just a polished RSS feed reader that also lets you subscribe to topics. Boring.
Apple News is not social, its recommendations need work, and it’s yet another app I have to use. It’s another entry in the crowded category of magazine apps that are only popular among people who already read the news regularly. For the dying print media, it’s a lifeboat with holes poked in it.
Second on my list today in the Apple News app’s “For You” tab, where you’re supposed to find personalized recommendations based on your interests, is a story about Justin Bieber’s upcoming album from the Times.
I don’t care about Justin Bieber or his music. (Sorry, Biebs, I just don’t.) And pulling news from big-name sources like the Times and CNN — regardless of their reputations — won’t attract a new audience, even if the stories are about today’s teen heartthrob.
Guess where the bulk of Bieber’s fans get news and updates about him in seconds. Yeah, Twitter. And his account is verified, so you can’t get much more reliable than that.
Twitter Moments is the anti-News
Here’s the genius of Twitter Moments. It understands that we live in a fast-paced world, where patience is thin and photos lure in people more effectively than text does. This concept is at the core of Snapchat and its own news delivery platform, Discover.
Is our new, accelerated world a problem? Maybe, but this isn’t about ethics and journalism’s role in society. It’s about the fact of the matter, and Twitter Moments caters to the real world. It has the potential to reach not only news junkies but anyone who uses Twitter for the fast, minuscule updates that made the service famous.
In the battle between traditional, longform news consumption and news in the world of social media, Twitter Moments comes out on top. Until Cupertino catches on, Apple News is just another app that will get tucked away in a folder.