Publishing in Apple News

Kristi Gordon
8 min readMay 3, 2017


Apple News has made publishing shockingly simple, as well as incredibly complicated.

The task of navigating through all the publishing options in apple news can be daunting, and confusing. Apple has a great help site, that can aid immensely with the process of diving into the various ways to publish in the News app. When using any digital publishing method, it is beneficial to assess some of the options and conduct some testing to determine how these options can be best utilized. Starting with the News Publisher App, and transitioning to the more complicated ANF (Apple news format). How does the process of publishing work? How does the final product look, and when should these options be used? How does the publishing process compare to that of publishing in Medium?

News Publisher App

Using the News Publisher App makes publishing in Apple News a quick and easy task. The app has very few options in terms of styling, and media integration; it really limits publishers’ ability to control the design of the article and brings focus to the content. Text and image content is all this app has to offer its publishers.

Styling is limited but there are a few options in the Publishing app

If you have a minimalist style, then this feature is great for you. As shown below, the images and text are basic, there is no option for an image gallery or sizing within the app. The app allows for text options such as: bold, italic, quotes, and image captions. The captions appear at the far left side of the article.(shown below) There is also an option to add a subtitle to an article for search results.

This option of publishing in apple news is great for quick, simple, meant to be skimmed articles. If a story needs to be published extremely fast, and the text and images are enough to tell the story, than this is the best way to go.

Simple, but not perfect

Using such a limited option has it’s cons, for example, referring to the images below, the article titled Virtual Reality; the description on this article is missing when viewed on mobile. The description was created and saved when the article was published in the publisher app, but fails to appear on mobile devices (it does, however, appear on the iPad). Another, more obnoxious problem is a missing images in the same article. The image (to the right) of the folders, is missing on iPhone, leaving a lot of empty white space; but it appears on ipad.

Virtual Reality story is missing description and image

However, being the simplist of options, the app has limited styling options for text as well as limited image formatting. If you want a photo gallery, embedded videos, and animation or GIFs; this is not the choice for you.

Apple News Format

For a more complicated and diverse experience, Apple News Format is a good option, this method uses a custom JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) document format. This allows you create unique content for News. Styled typography, stunning photo galleries, fun animations, and engaging video add life to your articles. Develop your content once, on one device, and ANF will optimizes your content for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch — providing your audience with a consistent experience on all devices.

However, if you want a more visual, engaging, animated experience for your readers, you have to learn the code; leterally. You must learn how to use the code system correctly-needed for the JSON format to render articles. The system has a few basic elements that need to be understood for the process to be successful. To break it down, the document has a set of objects, which have specific properties. The main object type is the component, most components contain some kind of content, they can also determine the structure of an article. Container (for structure) and Pull Quote (for content) are two of the most common component object types. Components have certain roles, such as, a text role might be “body” meaning that it fits into the body text area of the article. There is a whole list of component roles on the ANF help section.


All content in an article is arranged in a series of columns.

When you begin setting up your article in ANF, you can assign the number of columns, which has no limits to the amount you can choose. The average recommended amount of columns is 5–10 for content optimization. If there is no specified number, the article will be set to the default amount. You can choose the width and the number of columns needed to best fit your article needs, the system automatically scales according to device.

Columns for Apple News articles

ANF allows publishers to add animated elements to an article, for example, a fade in/out; also, behaviors such as parallax effects. Publishing in this format requires some understanding about objects and how they work in the document. Some of the most common objects found in a document are: text or a photo, metadata, (caption, excerpt or summary), sections, and animations. Below is an example of how an object might look in this format.

thumbnail image and excerpt are both object examples

As you build an article in the ANF, you can use the simulator to test how your article will look on different devices, which is helpful through this process. Simply drag your ANF JSON file into the area shown below, and it will appear on the simulator using whatever devices you choose.

Simulator with device options

The ANF allows you to choose a number of styling options for text, much more than the publisher app. The list varies from drop caps, shadows, to colors and strokes. The options are much greater in the ANF, offering a richer and more unique expereince. If you have the time, expertise, patience and assets to use this format, it could be worth the effort.

Do I need to use Apple News Format?

It comes down to purpose and content; if you only have a few images to show, along with text, Apple News Publisher app is a better choice. Larger, more visually appealing publishers, such as National Geographic, have high quality photos, video, and animated elements that are better showcased in a visual way on the ANF. Quite often, video, animation, and motion behaviors can all be found in each of Nat Geo’s articles, below is one example of an article containing all of these visual elements mentioned above, that can be created using the ANF.

These are only two of the options Apple News provides to publishers, there are more to review and test. But all require an icloud account and all must be approved through apple. Once you have completed that process, you can manage your content through your channel, advertise, and build an audience. Apple News absolutely caters to the big name news publishers, CNN, Fox News, etc, but you can publish your content on Apple News once past the approval process.

Medium vs Apple News

Apple News Publisher is similar to Medium in terms of simplicity (although Medium has more style and image formatting options), both are easy to use, require no coding experience, and allow publishers to create a space for their content online for anyone to access. Medium has the potential to reach a larger crowd due to the fact that it is web based, not limited to one platform. Apple News, however, is only accessible to those consumers with apple (ipad, iphone, ipod touch) devices.

Apple News and Medium both allow publications to be edited or accessed by multiple individuals to collaborate on a channel. Medium allows members to create an account, but it does not have a required approval process in place for publishers. There is no waiting time for publishing articles on Medium, it can be done immediately. Medium also allows tweets, video, animation elements, and even Virtual Reality content to be embedded into articles. These additions can be made without having to use code like in the ANF.

animation, video and virtual reality content can be added to Medium articles

Medium does not seem to cater to larger publishers like Apple News, it is a great place for businesses or individuals to have a digital presence and promote their ideas. Recommended stories are made according to your preferences in both Apple News and Medium. Medium likes to connect with Twitter, and allows subscribers to embed tweets into an article or story. Each story carries a set of added tags that allow for others to search out and find your content based on categories.

Adding tags, tweets, and descriptions to medium articles is easy

Medium and Apple News

Both are great digital publishing options

Medium allows you to link images to other URLs, or to other Medium articles, Apple News Publisher allows you to add links, but not to images, only text. The choices given to publishers that choose to use the Apple News Format have a lot more options to take articles to the next level. But Medium allows publishers to add some really cool features such as the VR images and animations without touching code. Medium can do more with less effort and technical trainning. For larger, more established publishers, Apple News is preferred, having articles available on Apple Devices in one centralized location with stories constantly updated and front and center. It is tougher for smaller publishers to get content out on apple news and get noitced, like on Medium. For promoting and growing a brand or showcasing content, Medium is a great option. For larger, more well known publishers, Apple News is a great way to go.