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Schrödinger's Newsstand

Prior to iOS 7, Newsstand was a special folder that shared iBooks' distinctive wood shelving look, that couldn't be removed from the Home screen or hidden in another folder, and whose icon gave you glimpse of the issues stacking up inside, if any. Since iOS 7, a lot of that has changed. Hamish McKenzie for Pando Daily:

For an Apple design, the Newsstand icon looks decidedly juvenile. But what's worse for publishers is that there is now no visual reminder within the Newsstand icon that there are publications inside, waiting to be read. On top of that, in iOS7 users can now hide the Newsstand icon inside a folder. The once-special treatment that Apple gave publishers in order to encourage the distribution of magazines to the iPhone and iPad had apparently vanished, at least in terms of visual prominence.

Worse still, all the special abilities Newsstand apps enjoyed in previous versions of iOS, including auto-renewing subscriptions, and background downloads, are now available to all apps in iOS 7. Creator of The Magazine, Marco Arment:

I see no benefit to magazines being in Newsstand anymore. Newsstand apps now have no meaningful exclusive abilities, and iOS 7 effectively buries them in a bland, opaque folder that's easily hidden.

Technically and politically, Newsstand also seems trapped between folder and app, between tent-pole feature in iOS 5 and barely any attention at all in iOS 7. And Newsstand developers are trapped with it, heavily discouraged from making the jump to regular apps, as they'd lose their existing subscribers in the transition.

So they're left somewhere in the middle. Newsstand is no longer treated like a folder, but Newsstand apps still can't be dragged out on the Home screen. Newsstand can be hidden in other folders now, but the Newsstand folder can't be found again via Spotlight search. Newsstand apps still get to update their covers to show off new issues, but those covers can no longer be seen in the Newsstand icon.

iOS 8 could roll around with a significant Newsstand relaunch, or with Newsstand obliterated entirely, or it could simply remain where it is now, stuck. For people with no interest at all in Newsstand, some of that is likely welcome news. For publishers, and for really great apps like The Magazine, The Loop Magazine, the New York Times, the future seems less than certain.

(Interestingly, Google has just merged their magazine service with their Currents product and relaunched it as Google Play Newsstand.)

Source: Pando Daily, Marco Arment

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I agree. I used to use newsstand occasionally when I saw the cover change for NYTimes in the shelf. Now that I don't see the change anymore, I rarely remember to check. Sent from the iMore App
  • I hated the fact that I couldn't drop Newsstand into a folder before. With iOS7, I even forgot it was there, which for me is good, because it's one of several default OS-included apps I have zero use for.
  • Agreed @gordol. iOS7 adds flexibility short of being able to turn off app to hide or ultimately being able to totally remove it for those of us who don't use it. Got a friend who has many subscriptions and likes it forward facing. Also Google newstand wraps up subscriptions of many sorts including news-feeds from subscribed sites which is actually very useful (e.g. iMore, BBC, etc). This functionality in one place on iOS would be great for me.
  • Absolutely. I never use Newsstand, and got sick of it in iOS 6 as another folder. I was happy to hide it in a folder when iOS 7 came out.
  • I understand publishers' disappointment. Apple should do something about it. Unless they want every mag to create their app. Sent from the iMore App
  • Newsstand was the least used app on my phone in previous versions of iOS and still is now with iOS 7. I'm just very happy I can move the thing and put an app I actually use in its place. The redesign of it is appealing to me the wood background from before was kind of "ehh" to me, it could still use a face lift but way better compared to before in my opinion. It wasn't enough to make me use the app :) Sent from the iMore App
  • I tried to support Newstand when it released but for as lazy as it may sound, I've gotten so tired if reading, especially when I can find video content to consume. My favorite, best case example - Guitar Interactive magazine. Sure, there's lots to read, but it's supplemented by awesome video content, and that's more my speed. Sent from the iMore App
  • As a consumer I'm content with burying the newsstand app and relying on notification alerts rather than app badges when there's a new issue available. I can see how publishers could be at a disadvantage with Newsstand for iOS 7 but consumers and publishers alike should know by now that Apple can change the rules to their game anytime. :) Sent from the iMore App
  • Newstand was an attempt for Apple to make a few bucks on a dying industry, and Apple sold it as a salvation to that industry, but failed to really commit to it. Of course, magazines and newspapers are not Apple's business, and it devoted as little energy as it could to the Newstand app, but I guess publishers expected more. I see the Passbook app going the same way and becoming irrelevant.
  • I was hoping that Apple would do something like a native RSS type feed for iOS 7. Like others, I forget to check my NY Times subscription because it's buried in Newsstand. The makers of IntelliscreenX had a great idea in the way it incorporated social feeds and RSS right into Notification Center. Apple should take notice of that and build on that idea. Sent from the iMore App
  • I think I opened Newsstand once when it first came out. I've literally never opened it again. I just am not interested in magazines/newspapers at all. I just read everything online. Most popular magazines (at least the ones I read) end up putting all of their good articles on their website anyway. Sent from the iMore App
  • Same here. And I think it will stay that way until Apple makes a really compelling feature to entice me in using it. Sent from the iMore App
  • Maybe it is just because I actually use Newsstand for content already but I don't see much of a difference. Sure, I don't like the new design all that much, but I'm downloading new issues of The Magazine same as I always was. Glenn Fleishman said there was some sort of discoverability issue, but I'm pretty sure most people ignored the app anyway. He also said that when the changes were made renewals went down but I didn't quite understand the correlation. Sent from the iMore App
  • For me personally, Newsstand is a waste of space. I read all of my news and entertainment through RSS feeds, and I love Feedly and Flipboard for that. I'm sure there are those who really like their digital magazines and such, but I still wish Newsstand was able to be deleted for those of us who don't. Needless to say, I'm glad I can now at least hide it in a folder with the other random un-deletable apps Apple forces on me (yes, I'm looking at you Stocks, Compass, and Passbook). Sent from the iMore App
  • I only have TIME in my Newsstand. Wish I could just rip it out, considering it was a "standalone" app a few versions ago. Waste. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's really a shame for the publishers who were encouraged by Apple to switch to Newsstand and now are stuck. I do check (mostly for NYT and WSJ) when I see the blue dot, but it's too subtle compared to a badge or cover change. I never minded not being able to place it in a folder, but clearly it was a much-requested and now used feature. Sent from the iMore App
  • The comments said it all, the app is seldom used not because it is not useful but people aren't interested in the contents of the products. I believe Apple know by the response to its usage. I believe the subscribed magazine can send a notification but I believe many aren't interested in it. So be prepared for a slow death of the products in Newstand.
  • Apple needs to have a single reading app. It’s an obvious sales leader: people who read books may more easily pick up newspaper and magazine digital editions, and vice versa.
  • You forgot to mention in the article another oddity of "not really a folder, not really an app": The multitouch gesture to go back to the homescreen does not work in Newsstand.