Apple News is Secretly Really Great

Apple News is Secretly Really Great by Ben Brooks:

I am a news junkie, and a completionist. That combination means the day I discovered RSS and, specifically at the time Google Reader, was the peak of my news obsession. It’s been downhill since then.
While I still use RSS, most sites now abuse RSS in egregious ways. They randomly republish their entire feeds every month, or they don’t offer feeds for the ‘latest’ content instead forcing you to go find categories to subscribe to. Some flat out ignore RSS, instead telling you how great their miserable newsletter is.
And then Apple came out with Apple News and it was to be great. It was a visual RSS reader with Flipboard like aspects. But the reality was far worse, and though they tried, Apple News seemed destined for failure. However, over the past year Apple News, now just ‘News’ has become secretly really great.
Allow me to explain&

Ben does his typical thoughtful job on this. My experience largely reflects his. I am disappointed that Apple News pulled down the Washington Post’s story about Australian Cardinal George Pell’s guilty verdict for five counts of child sexual abuse. This I am reflecting on if and how I want to use Apple News based on this blatant bit of censorship.

Gets a Bad Wrap

Like .Mac, MobileMe, and iCloud before it, News started off like a pile of shit with good intentions, and then quietly became so good that everyone needed it pointed out that ‘actually its really good now’. When News came out, it was device specfic. Which meant that not only what you saw on one device would be different on another, but that if they were the same, the scroll position wasn’t there. News had no idea you had other devices. It had no idea what you might like.
Now it has a much better idea, and it’s pretty great. Everyday my morning reading routine goes like this:
* Check and process email
* Check RSS
* Check Apple News
* Read Economist Espresso
* Check Flipboard

I used to do the Economist Expresso but let my subscription lapse. Flipboard is dead to me. Insert the New York Times and occasionally the Japan Times.

So it is fascinating to me that the highlight of my morning is always Apple News. Flipboard is more visual, but less useful. Most of the topics are utter shit. Only “trending” seems worth the time anymore — and that’s only to stay up on pop culture, and less on interesting shit. Flipboard is mostly a wasteland.
Economist Espresso is extremely good, but short and fast to go through.
My inbox is a shit show.

Mine, too. I’m hating email newsletters because more and more spam looks like them.

RSS is hit and miss, and honestly a bit boring most days.

Sadly this is my experience as well. Using Feedly filters I can kill off some detritus in my feed, but they are limited in number.

But Apple News is where I find the majority of the stuff I read. They do an excellent job with human curation of major news. Siri does great and surfacing stories I should like, from sources I otherwise might not see. It is, like iCloud these days, rock solid.

For me, Siri is about as useful as a third nipple. I have Siri turned off almost everywhere including Apple News

How to Use It

What I have come to realize is that you can only check Apple News once per day. I know that seems counterintuitive, so allow me to explain why.
1. It’s not as frequently updated, except the human curated section which tends to be updated twice per day — so you could check that.

I get to use News because I set up my devices as U.S. even tho I am in Japan. The timing for the curating isn’t conducive to this time zone and my schedule, but oh well.

  1. Since Apple News has no ‘read’ indicator, checking it once per day allows you to ignore any story listed as ‘1d ago’ which makes the completionist in me very happy.
    Really Apple, add a read indicators already.


Syncing Was a Big Help

One of the biggest helps was the syncing. While it doesn’t sync position, it does show the same content across devices at the same times during the day. So if I started reading on my iPad, and had to pick up on my iPhone, I’m not immediately lost.

My experience with syncing is that it isn’t flawless.

Tell it What you Don’t Like

The biggest tip: use those hearts to tell News what you like and don’t like. Don’t be shy, be aggressive with it. The content will get better. Also subscribe to a bunch of interesting publications. It will look crappy for the first few days, then Apple News will do a better job at surfacing relevant content.
Give it a week.

Give it more than a week. I have zero interest in super hero movies and tv shows yet they still surface because I like tech & sci fi.Same challenge I have with streaming music and video services – they make assumptions they won’t let go of.

Save to Read Elsewhere

Don’t read in Apple News, use it to find good stuff. Save the rest to Pocket. Pocket is the best. Tap, hold, Pocket.

I go back & forth on Pocket. Right now I avoid it mostly over my displeasure with Mozilla (another long story). In its place I’m loving DEVONthink and DEVONthink To Go more and more.

Annoyingly Some Sites Force News Only Articles

Speaking of saving to Pocket, some articles seem to only be able to be read in Apple News. Be prepared for this extreme annoyance. It happens to me about 2-3 times a week.

Go Use It

It’s free, so really there’s nothing holding you back from using it. Read it in portrait on your iPad for the best experience — which also applies to most things in life.

I wish there were a way to filter out news sources or articles that don’t provide full content.