Newsstand Feels Like the Place on My Phone Where Publishing Goes to Die
My friend Joshua Mauldin tipped me off to some recent comments by Marco Arment about Apple’s Newsstand application/portal in iOS. Marco highlights a couple of technical changes in iOS 7 that have taken some of the luster off Newsstand, including:
Auto-renewing subscriptions, which launched as effectively Newsstand-exclusive, are now permitted in any app that sells content or services that fit within Apple’s (vague, arbitrary, and capricious) permitted categories for auto-renewal.
Background downloads and silent content-available push notifications could only be used in Newsstand apps prior to iOS 7. But under iOS 7, these are available to all apps.
Hamish McKenzie addressed how some of the iOS 7-specific design changes made to Newsstand might be impacting readers’ use of the app. Glenn Fleishman, who now publishes The Magazine (a Newsstand-first publication founded by Arment), expressed concern that iOS 7 changes, such as the more generic look of the Newsstand icon, are leading fewer readers to return to the app:
[Fleishman] believes Apple doesn’t think the Newsstand is as important as it once was, because the company hasn’t made enough changes to improve it. His view is supported by Marko Karppinen of digital publishing startup Richie, who has argued that it now makes more sense for publishers to prioritize a stand-alone app over a Newsstand app because, to paraphrase John Gruber, the Newsstand is now more than ever a place where apps go to be forgotten.
Personally, I’m with Karppinen’s view, but not specifically since iOS 7. Having multiple publications tucked away behind the Newsstand icon on my iPhone or iPad has always struck me as a poor UX decision, regardless of whether or not the icon may have shown a minuscule version of a publication’s cover. Newsstand feels like a glorified folder that I have no control over. At least with a standard iOS folder (such as the “Reading” one I usually keep on my phone), I’ve got control over what’s there, and more importantly, I’ve got the ability to change those items, pulling out frequently-accessed apps onto my homescreen, where I’m more likely to see (and interact with) them.
Newsstand, as a marketplace with the larger iTunes ecosystem, should continue to exist. It makes sense to have non-book reading materials easily accessible via their own entry point into iTunes. Let Newsstand continue to be where I go to explore new publications and look for things to read. But once I’ve purchased or subscribed to a publication, let that exist as a standalone app, who’s placement on my device I control.
Besides, that’s a much better fit for the metaphor: a real world, old school newsstand is where I’d go to buy reading magazines and periodicals, but not where I’d ever store my personal collection of things to read.