Publishers airing their gripes anonymously suggest that the early days of Apple News+ haven’t exactly been smooth sailing.
Complaints include teething problems with article formatting and design, as well as broader worries that Cupertino favors large publishers over smaller ones.
The Digiday report claims that smaller publishers are finding it hard to adjust to the new workflow needed for Apple News+. Specifically, in order to get the magazines in the right format, “each issue needs to effectively be copy- and design-edited all over again, to ensure that design, formatting and spacing have come out in one piece, according to multiple sources.”
While larger publishers have the resources to design their own templates, smaller publishers have a tougher choice to make. Namely, they must either pour money into an unproven format, or use an established template — which means they don’t stand out. One other option is to “wait things out with a PDF, and hope that having a different user experience doesn’t cost you readers.”
The end result? A user experience which is not entirely cohesive, according to Digiday‘s article:
“In addition, some publishing sources say, there is frustration with Apple News+’s uneven user experience, with some publications splurging on custom design, and others simply uploading PDFs of their print issues. ‘You think of Apple, and they’re so design-conscious,’ a second source said. ‘This doesn’t feel like that at all.'”
A personal Slack room
Perhaps the most notable complaint, however, relates to Apple’s treatment of smaller publishers versus large ones. All publishers gain email access to a team of Apple designers, who can answer questions. But a smaller group of big-name publishers also enjoy access to a private Slack channel, which gives them much faster responses.
“‘They’re basically playing favorites,’ [one] source said. ‘It always seems to be good for the big guys, but not for the rest of us.'”
Give Apple the benefit of the doubt
Before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to give some benefit of the doubt to Apple. News+ is still a very new service, so early teething problems are to be expected.
The challenges of being a small publisher competing against giants are also the same whether you’re in print or digital. YouTube, for instance, gives its biggest (and therefore most lucrative) creators access to support that your typical YouTuber doesn’t have.
In the case of News+, Apple actively sought out certain clients to get the service off the ground. Others are doing what your average app developer does: hopping on an Apple gold rush in hopes that it yields big results. To put it bluntly, they need Apple more than Apple needs them.
Hopefully, Apple can address some of these challenges over time. News+ offers a great deal for users, and could help give the publishing industry the boost it needs. But just because you’ve got a tech giant on your side doesn’t mean things will be easy — as those who have run the numbers are fully aware.