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Smaller Publishers Unhappy With Apple News+ Launch’s ‘Early Headaches’

Smaller Publishers Unhappy With Apple News+ Launch’s ‘Early Headaches’

Some publishers that are participating in the Apple News+ subscription service say they are unhappy with how Apple is “playing favorites” with larger publishers.

Five participating publishers spoke with media site Digiday, and shared some information about the “early headaches” they’re experiencing with the launch of the service.

When Apple was pushing to get publications to sign up, the company promised design resources and templates for customizing content for the Apple News format. However, it seems Apple isn’t providing those resources to the smaller publishers, but is instead only offering them to larger publishers.

While all publishers in the program have been provided with an email address to send pitches to for design help, a select group of publishers have been provided access to a private Slack channel.

“They’re basically playing favorites,” that first source said. “It always seems to be good for the big guys, but not for the rest of us.”

Apple hasn’t provided the promised Apple-created article and content templates to publishers, instead it has outsourced templates to vendors. This has resulted in bugs in the templates, causing more work for publishers.

Added work tops the list of several publishers’ complaints. Most of the publishers that want to convert pages from their print issues into a digital format rely on tools which scan PDFs, then converts their contents into individual articles and advertisements. The technology is buggy enough that 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. And because they are standardized, these tools make it harder to distinguish one publisher’s content from another, sources said.

Publishers are also frustrated with the “uneven user experience” in Apple News with the split between PDFs and the new Apple News format. “You think of Apple, and they’re so design-conscious,” said one publisher. “This doesn’t feel like that at all.”

Publishers that spoke with Digiday said the flaws in Apple News+ don’t “bode well for its long-term future” unless Apple makes some key changes to the service.