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Why I'm keeping my News+ subscription

News Plus on iPhone

Apple gives a month-long free trial of News+, it's magazine subscription service, to let us get a feel for whether we want to keep paying $10 per month for access to more than 100 magazine titles. My 30-day trial ends today and I've decided that, even though I was skeptical at first, $10 per month is worth it.

Limited selection breeds curiosity

The first day Apple News+ launched, I spent most of my time reading magazines, checking out what was available, favoriting ones I wanted to follow. The selection is fine, but it's nothing to go wild over. Some of my most favorite magazines aren't available in News+, but they never are available in digital news package services. New+ titles are more like what you find at the grocery store than what you'd find at a dedicated magazine and newspaper stand. The selection is wide and broad but doesn't really cover the niche culture. That's not to say Apple won't convince future publishers to join the program. But for now, it's so-so.

The funny thing is, I still find myself gobbling up monthly and weekly rags like a kid in a candy store. No, I wouldn't go out to the store to buy Midwest Living off the newsstand. I've never had an interest in the subject matter. Guess what? I read through the May/June 2019 issue with delight because this particular issue was all about cabin living (or cabin visiting).

For the price of two standard magazines, I can browse through any number of titles I want.

This is exactly why News+ has endeared itself to me. For the price of two standard magazines each month, I can browse through any number of titles I want. I can read SOME articles in The New Yorker without feeling obligated to read the entire thing, cover-to-cover. I can open up Vogue without worrying about my olfactory senses being bombarded by the overpowering smell of cologne and I can read one article that interested me from the front page and not feel compelled to read all about the latest fashion trends because I paid for the magazine.

Long-form content feeds the brain

It's not just about being able to read 100+ titles for one price, though. It's also about reading well-researched long-form content that you just don't get as much of by reading free articles on the Internet.

It's about reading well-researched long-form content that you just don't get by reading free articles on the Internet.

Wired Magazine, Popular Science, and National Geographic are just some examples of magazines that dive deep with their content coverage. I can quickly digest bits of news for free online or in the News app's free content, but if I want to know more about the history of an issue or why something is happening, these magazines dedicate time, resources, and good writers to bring a broader and deeper understanding of the subject matter.

From interviews with celebrities to a deeply researched commentary on how weightlifting is a great way for women to get in shape, these long-form articles are what made magazines unique to their newspaper counterparts and, its why just getting your news for free from your favorite blogs is not as nutritional for your brain.

I'd almost forgotten how nice it is to spend 45 minutes reading a single, focused article about a subject I'm interested in. It's like eating a really great meal with perfectly complimentary flavors in just the right portions, instead of snacking all day on carbs and sugars.

What's wrong is wrong

News+ is far from perfect, specifically in the user interface. It seems to me that Apple wanted to get the service out to us as soon as possible, before taking the time necessary to work out the design kinks, of which there are many.

The biggest complaint I see people have is not being able to find back issues of a magazine. As far as I can tell (I haven't tried every single one of the 100+ magazines), every one of them has a year's worth of back issues. You just have to know how to find it.

  1. Select a magazine.
  2. Tap the magazine's name at the top of the screen.
  3. Browse through back issues listed at the top of the magazine's Home page.

Select a magazine, then tap the magazine name at the top of the screen to view back issues

This shouldn't be so hard to find. There should be a much easier way to binge read one magazine's past year of content. There are other interface issues I've come across that are so aggravating that I almost want to put down my iPad and walk away. Things like increasing the font size (when you scroll down an article, the font resizer disappears and you have to scroll back up to access it, but then you can only see the article headline, so you don't know how much bigger you need to make the font), or swiping or scrolling gestures (in some magazines, you can only swipe right/left, but in others, you can scroll down), or jumping to a new article (in some magazines, the pages are laid out like a PDF, but in others, you're taken back to the magazine's table of contents).

The thing is, though, for all its flaws, News+ is completely fixable. With the next big software update, Apple may have a complete redesign that addresses many of our complaints about the user interface, so it's definitely not a reason to cancel my subscription.

Blurring the lines between news and magazines

Apple News has been around since 2015 and because I've been using it since day one, I've built myself a fairly customized feed of content that caters to my personal interests. Maybe a little too customized.

When I integrated with News+, I started seeing more suggestions for articles I might be interested in based on magazine articles I'd read. People Magazine was suddenly in my For You section. Bon Appétit was enticing me with delicious looking plates of food. The Wall Street Journal's business spin on politics was peppered in with my tech news.

For some, that may be a bad thing. With a customized feed, you don't want to mess with the algorithm, but for me, it was like getting a fresh look at the world. Some content, I had to "dislike" so I wouldn't see so much of it in my news feed, but other content, I liked seeing. It breaks things up a little (my news feed is heavily focused on tech news).

Don't hit the cancel button so fast

The best part about having News+ is the variety of content. When I wake up in the morning, I want to digest everything I possibly can about the tech world. That's part of my job. At the end of the day, however, I love sitting back with a cocktail and my iPad and flipping through brightly colored pictures of places I want to go or houses I want to live in. News+ is both relaxing and informative, and that, to me, is worth $10 per month.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

9 Comments
  • Oh, hey i'm commenting on a Lory Gil article! I see her on the podcasts! :) So, I have not tried out Apple news. News. Not news plus. I think it came to me enabled, and started giving me tons of stuff I did not want. Uninstalled it. My question is, and sorry I have not bothered to look this up, and it's the same with ALL content from anywhere and on the web, I don't want Like and Thumbs-up half as much as I want the opposite. "Strong dislike' and "Never want to see it" are what I want. The only social media I use is Twitter, and thanks to my daughter that told me about mute (muted words and such) and block (blocked accounts). Half of my time it tailoring my news feed/twitter feed by blocking people that blew their ONE chance and article or topics I never desire to see in my entire life. So, I will gladly pay for this if and ONLY IF... I can hate and block. (I know, people will think this strong). But, that's what I'm looking for. Does news, news+ et al give me these basic ways to tailor my feed to not waste my hours? Thank you! Love Lory Gil on the web shows!
  • I'm not Lory, but I would encourage you to give News (not Plus ... yet) a second try. I have it on my personal iPhone and easily tailored it to show me things I like (and to answer your last question first, YES you can dislike and block things you don't like, just as you can favourite stuff you love). Five minutes of time put in picking topics of interest and a few hearts/nohearts will leave you with a feed you're likely to really enjoy. Plus, FREE! I also have the News app on my "work" phone, which is very locked down and/or as "generic" as possible for corporate uniformity. The News feed there (completely untouched by me until today) is exactly like what you describe as your first experience -- bleah! So yeah, picking topics of interest and spreading a few hearts/nohearts around makes all the difference. As for News+, that is something where you won't have any need to like or dislike anything ... because you are selecting the content you want to read by clicking on it. You're likely to already be familiar with a lot of the mags and whether or not they are for you, and the titles and slugs of the articles do a fine job of letting you know whether you want to read them or not. I couldn't say if you'll find enough there for the $10/month, but compared to the number of titles I *know* I'm going to enjoy reading and the cost of subscribing to them the traditional way, $10 looks to save me a modest amount of money -- but as Lory points out, it's the dipping into other magazines for a particular article (in publications I would otherwise not be interested enough to subscribe to) that is the "secret sauce" of News+.
  • I'm enjoying it too. But paying $13 CAN, I should also be able to read it in Safari on my Mac running High Sierra (I can't upgrade to MacOS Mojave without breaking essential work apps)...
  • Which apps are you using that won't work with Mojave? Mojave still works with 32-bit apps in case you're wondering
  • Your lead in to this article said "before you hit the cancel button"... I don't have a cancel button for Apple "News" since I never signed up for their nonsense, and removed the crApp from my iPhone. Also telling that they intentionally made it so you can't open "News" links friends are mocking on it without the crApp installed, or unless you open them in Chrome not Safari.
  • You can't open News links because the News app handles those links when selected from a core OS app. The problem here is in Apple's handling of default apps, which Apple doesn't allow you to set. The bizarre thing is that Apple lets you remove stock apps and yet doesn't allow you to set another as a default, and that's where you end up in this situation. Once we're able to select default apps, it'll resolve that issue
  • I simply don't use the News app at all. I can list my favorites that are available, but don't seem to get the stories or news I want. There's no way to get the topics I want to read about. It seems I only get what Apple wants me to see. I do better with Twitter.
  • Twitter is my main source for news. Using Twitter with a custom client like Tweetbot is great, I can very quickly skim through all the news and pick out what I like
  • How does one know if their magazine is in Apple News format or just a pdf? Is there any notation to the magazine?