Apple and News

Shit icon, shit app
Shit icon, shit app

With the latest update to iOS, UK users were given yet another undeletable Apple app, News.

The hype about News, when they launched it, was that it would render stories “beautifully”, making them easy to read on a small screen. There was also some talk about how Apple would provide ads, or the publishers could continue to include them in content.

The coming of Apple News coincided with the coming of content blockers, which can stop scripts and both foreground and background ads from loading. Content blockers are great, and allow news web pages to load much faster. On the other hand, the publishers are screaming because they’re not getting eyeballs on their ads. When you visit the Guardian with ad- or content blockers enabled, Polly Toynbee pops up and suggests that you pay £5 a month to support the Guardian.

£5 per month is a reasonable amount of money. That’s, what, about 17p per day? If there was a news organisation on earth that I wanted to support, I’d pay £5 a month, no problem. Problem is, I basically want all the news organisations on earth to die. I honestly think we’d be better off without them, since they’re not doing their job of speaking truth to power. Particular problem for the Guardian is, given the number of their articles I actually click through and read, that’s around 8p per article. And, more often that not, I don’t think what I’ve just read is worth even that. Most of what they publish is linkbait designed to attract Facebook and Twitter users. And their commentary is usually of the everybody thinks this, so I’m going to say that variety. The comment sections below the line are a scorched wasteland of trolling and hate. As for Polly Toynbee, she’s not the person who’s going to persuade me that The Guardian is worth supporting. Zoe Williams, maybe. But I barely even bother with the Stewart Lee columns, really.

Another reason I won’t support The Guardian is that they keep giving space to noted liar Tony Blair so he can continually justify his illegal war.

Swipe left on the iPhone home screen and you get screen -1, the one with the Siri suggestions on it and some news stories. Apple have already upset me by providing these, because they usually come from right wing sources. Finding a link to a Telegraph story on my phone’s screen, Apple, is worse than finding a fucking U2 album in my music library. And I fucking hate every fucking note fucking U2 have ever fucking played.

So, the News app. First of all, the stories are not “beautifully” displayed. Lots have raved about the new San Francisco font. I don’t like it. I don’t like it any better than I liked Helvetica as the system font, and I fucking hate every fucking character in fucking Helvetica. Maybe it’s supposed to look better on an iPad, but on an iPhone it’s pretty hopeless. Not as good as Flipboard, even, which I don’t use because Flipboard too serves you a load of shit you don’t want.*

Second of all, even if you have a content blocker running, the ads are back. Of course they are! In this scenario, Apple are like the mob, persuading publishers to support News, because it would be a shame if anything happened to those ads you run on your web site…With the returning ads comes the return of long page load times. Very few stories are readable within the News app, so you have to click a link to read them, and the experience is no better than just clicking a link from Twitter and opening Safari. Except with more ads.

In this brave new world, I’m supposed to be able to tailor news to suit me, but, see, it’s not really possible. News organisations are mostly right wing, and News doesn’t really let me filter out the hate. It’s the same problem Music had: you might think you know what customisation means, Apple, but you don’t. Customisation should mean I could switch off – forever – your shit curated playlists and your shit radio stations and simply follow my own musical nose, which has served me well for 40 years and continues to do so.

*I’m concerned this makes me seem like a closed-minded bigot, only seeking out news and views that support my narrow perspective. But my objections are as much to do with the practicalities of bandwidth. When I roam in France, I supposedly have the same “unlimited” allowance I have in the UK. But the speeds seem to be throttled down to 2G at best, and it can take a long time for content to load. I gave up on News mainly because it took so long to fetch new stories that I was better off just using Twitter. And at least on Twitter I can use the mute feature of Tweetbot to filter out shit. My muted terms include X Factor, Halloween, Glastonbury and anything else that the media overdoes. Yesterday, I muted anything relating to the John Lewis Christmas ad because I don’t need to read 65,000 tweets or links to articles about it.

And here’s why much of the media industry deserves to die. Marco Arment noted this recently, when something he blogged about was picked up, first by one tech news outlet, and then all of them. And all the “news” articles about his blog post merely summarised what he’d said. Over and over again. There is a tremendous over-supply of news organisations all publishing the same shit. None of them differentiate themselves in any way whatsoever. They all produced what Nick Davies in Flat Earth News called churnalism. Most of it is not news, and it’s not even opinion. It’s just a great tsunami of meaningless drivel.

Exhibit A would be something like the John Lewis ad. It heralds the great advertising monsoon that begins in November. But there is nothing to say about it this year that wasn’t said last year, and the year before, by the same people. The same jokes, the same complaints. Life on a loop.

Advertisements