Do you remember Google Play Newsstand? Anyone? No, just me? Newsstand was Google’s topical news aggregation and digital magazine platform that launched in 2013 before the company decided that no one reads digital magazines and before it decided to dump all of its efforts back into Google News.
Even though it gained machine learning algorithms for its fully personalized reader in 2016, it still failed to meet the company’s expectations, and it shut it down shortly afterward. Wait, what’s that? Google Newsstand still exists? You’re kidding, right? Nope!
Believe it or not, you can still access Google Play Newsstand via the web, and if you’re as baffled at this revelation as I was yesterday when I stumbled upon it, then we can now both claim that we’re not alone.
Google no longer invests in Newsstand, but for some odd reason, it’s left it up and running! Because of this, I took a trip down memory lane and realized something about it along the way. With no significant updates over the past six years, Newsstand offers a much better reading experience than Google News does in 2022, and that’s just a shame.
Take, for example, the image comparison below (Drag the handle left and right). Not only does Newsstand have a better, more polished visual layout, but it also features big, beautiful images, a prominent bookmarking icon to save articles for later, and a huge, obvious header section for news sources.
By comparison, Google News places words at the forefront, opting for a tiny, right-aligned image that makes it much slower to identify what the article is about. On top of that, Newsstand has plenty a splash of purple to mix up the monotony compared to the muted, boring design of Google News, weather is much more centered and eye-catching at the top of the homepage, and the “Library” section has gorgeous source icons that makes it feel like you’re browsing Google Podcasts or something.
Again, by comparison, Google News shows off “words-first” sources and there’s no way to view truncated articles per source in a curated digest like there is in Newsstand. All of this to state that there’s just so much that Google News can learn from its past endeavors. Sure, Google News predates Newsstand, but Newsstand itself has plenty to teach the O.G. reader, in my opinion.
I’ll leave you with this incredibly appealing video of a scroll through Google Play Newsstand so that you get the general idea of how much more interesting it looks to read the news in the morning compared to the boring and incredibly dull Google News you open each day.
Oh, and when I think about how Google News looks and feels on my phone and how it’s become virtually indistinguishable from Google Discover, I’m filled with joy at the image-first approach seen there.
My only question for the News team is this – “Why is the web app so damn boring by comparison?” As a Chromebook owner, I want the same reading experience on my laptop as I have on my phone. Going from images in a card design to reading a crap ton of text is just so excruciating that I pick up my phone and go back to the mobile app or install Flipboard on Chrome OS instead.
Take the best of Newsstand and inject it into Google News. Learn from your past. If you’re going to ditch something, at least take its DNA and pay it forward. Make News more visually stimulating and stop being so lazy with your web apps. The web is no longer just a place for static designs and text, so capitalize on modern aesthetics and stop acting like it’s 2001.
Until Google ends up shutting down Newsstand completely, (by the way, it’s sloppy that they haven’t yet done so!) I’m going to continue using it as my primary reader on the web, but that doesn’t excuse News from being so ugly.