Here's what Apple's latest iOS update means for journalists
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The journalism world tends to experience ripple effects every time Apple makes major updates to its products.
Some of those ripples — such as the iOS9’s release of Apple News, which can bring “crazy traffic” to news websites — have been seismic. Others, like the iPad, have proven to be less influential than expected in the long term.
Last week’s iOS12 unveiling seems to be more like the former. Here are some of the features I suspect will have big and small impacts on journalism.
- Notification controls: Users will gain a lot more control over the notifications they receive on their devices. They can turn specific notifications a lot more easily, for example, meaning one unwanted or annoying push notification from a news publisher could quickly lose them a reader. Similar notifications will also appear as “grouped,” meaning users might only see the latest notification if they’ve received several similar ones in proximity. The new iOS also offers a “deliver quietly” mode for push alerts that will display them on the Notification Center but not the lock screen.
- Safari privacy: Programmatic advertisers and others (Apple called out Facebook in its keynote) who track users across websites will take a hit with iOS12. Safari will now ask users if they want to allow those trackers to follow them. My guess is that most users will say no. That could spell bad news for news publishers who rely on programmatic advertising.
- Apple News: The big news about Apple News is that it’s coming to the desktop (as are many apps, I’m sure, given that Apple has made it easier to port them). The Mac version will look a lot like the iOS version and will likely further increase the app’s importance as a traffic generator. The app will also see a redesign to make it easier to navigate.
- Updated Siri: Apple’s assistant is getting an intelligence boost. She (or he, if you’ve flipped to a different voice) will now recommend third-party apps to you based on your schedule or location. She should also be able to tell users the latest news about a specific topic, which could prove interesting for publishers. She’ll also be tied into notifications and suggest turning alerts off if you haven’t tapped on them lately.
- Screen Time: I recently shared an app called Moment that helps users track their daily phone use (and to help them cut back). My only issue with it is that it doesn’t go deep enough — users occasionally have to take screenshots of their battery usage and that’s slightly less than elegant. Apple is implementing a system-level version that tracks app use and time.
- Improved performance: I’ll believe this when I see it, but Apple promises improved performance across all devices all the way back to the iPhone 5S. Apps should open faster, the keyboard should be more responsive and users shouldn’t have to wait for their camera to load after opening. We’ll see.
As usual, Apple is mum about specifics, but iOS12 should be out this fall. Let’s see what it does for journalism.
Digital News to Know
GET SOCIAL: Nearly a third of people looking for technology news find what they’re looking for through Google searches, while only 16 percent do so through Facebook. The trend flips with family and parenting news — 70 percent find it through Facebook, 20 percent through Google. Use this information to determine whether your newsroom is wasting time optimizing for one when it should be spending it somewhere else. Analytics company Parse.ly’s latest report has 23 other categories (and other major sources, such as Flipboard, Twitter and Pinterest) for you to analyze.
TOOLS MEGAZORD: MuckRock — maker of great journalism tools like FOIAMachine and Quackbot — is merging with DocumentCloud, the best document analysis and collaboration tool out there for journalists. Current MuckRock users will soon get a lot more analytical features, while current DocumentCloud users will see more stability and many more features.
PROTECT YOURSELF: And now, a journalism lesson from Paul Manafort. If you’re using WhatsApp or another end-to-end encrypted messaging service to speak with delicate sources (or, you know, Ukrainian lobbyists), make sure your messages aren’t being backed up to iCloud, which law enforcement might be able to access with a search warrant. FYI, I just checked my iCloud settings and it seemed like WhatsApp had been enabled for me by default.
NEW NAME, STILL GREAT: I’ve written before about the challenges of sharing audio on social networks, and recommended Sparemin Headliner as a way of getting around that. The tool turns audio files into easily-shareable video files that work great on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And now the company is known simply as Headliner. Update your bookmarks.
DON’T STOP LEARNING: They’re calling it the third industrial revolution. Automation will soon cause a massive shift in the types of skills workers need. A third of workers will need to adapt their mix of skills by 2030 and all will need to expect to continue to learn new skills throughout their careers. Those with only basic numeracy and reading skills will be most at risk, while demand for advanced technical skills such as coding will increase 55 percent. Also slated to increase: social and emotional skills, by 24 percent. You can’t teach the robots that. Yet.
SOMETHING CORPORATE: Ever try to track down a company’s logo? You can Google it, but you’ll probably find a low-resolution version from some other site. You can search for the company’s brand page, but good luck finding it. Next time, search findguidelin.es first.
LESS THAN THREE: Most major tech companies have their own spin on emoji (yes, the plural is also “emoji”). The “shush” face emoji, for instance, looks like you’d expect on most devices, while it verges into horror movie territory on Apple products. How do designers decide how their emoji should look? It turns out the folks at Android take user feedback into consideration when they update emoji (why’d they have the cheese on top of the cheeseburger to begin with?).