Think RSS is dead? Maybe it’s really just hiding. Like Flipboard, the Apple News app delivered as part of the iOS 9 update earlier this month focuses on the very thing missing from earlier feedreaders: the aesthetic.
As part of the roll-out, Apple is offering development tools in the form of Apple News Format to inspire digital journalists to embed videos, animations, and photo galleries specifically for this application. And the channels of well-designed sites are especially attractive within this interface.
As with RSS readers, when you first launch Apple News, you can select from among legacy and online media outlets to add to your feed. You can follow particular sites (they become your “favorites”) or browse by subject (“explore”), and search for breaking stories by keyword. The “channels” appear to be vetted through the application rather than simply allowing someone to pull in any site with a feed (like this blog).
Apple News is unapologetic about helping you construct a filter bubble, asserting that the more you read, the better the news will get at understanding your interests, since they will personalize the stories delivered to your screen based on your behavior. You can speed up the process by assigning heart icons, a mechanism that prompts Apple to recommend stories its considers similar. Conceptually related stories with applicable keywords are found at the bottom of many articles.
The other mechanisms built into News are familiar from other iOS apps. You can bookmark stories for later offline reading,share stories via connected social media channels, and, if you use Apple News on multiple devices, you can sync your preferences via iCloud.
When Apple News was announced, some pundits theorized the de-coupling of editorial and advertising content would be complete. But while some metered and paywalled sources exist within the Apple News channels, many require logins for full access. With Apple scrambling to differentiate good advertising from bad advertising and pulling ad blocking apps, the evolving news landscape remains interesting.