Apple's News app draws 90 million regular readers

Human-focused curation may play a role in its growth.

Sure, Apple includes its News app on iOS devices and Macs, but how many people actually flip through it on a regular basis? Quite a few, it seems. As part of a rare peek, the New York Times reported that News has about 90 million regular readers. They're not just skimming, either, since stories routinely rack up over a million views each. It comes at a cost -- advertisers complain that they don't make much money, and there's a concern that media companies might become overly dependent on Apple at the expense of both ad money and reader data. This is still no mean feat, though, and Apple credits what it isn't doing to its growth.

Editor in Chief Lauren Kern attributed Apple News' popularity to a decision to downplay algorithmic story selection in favor of human curation. The choice theoretically helps Apple not only keep out fake news, but refrain from posting inaccurate stories from normally trustworthy sources. It can help shift attention to local news outlets, as well. Algorithm-heavy sites like Facebook and Google have taken steps to curb fake news (including with human help), but that reliance on automation still leads to bogus stories falling through the cracks.

And no, Kern doesn't think that a focus on human creation necessarily introduces bias -- she contended that humans were necessary to counter bias that might creep up in the algorithmic process.

Whatever helped News grow, its size might be important to Apple's long-term plans. There are rumors Apple will use its Texture acquisition to bring paid subscriptions to the app, including newspaper subscriptions. A 90 million-strong user base offers Apple a bargaining chip by promising a large number of potential customers.