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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

In iOS 11, App Store editorial comes out of the shadows

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Many years ago, when I worked at Macworld, I was contacted by an Apple recruiter about a job as an editor for the Mac App Store. Apple, recruiting editorial talent for the App Store? That seemed unusual.

The fact is, while the App Store has indeed had an editorial team for quite a while, Apple’s approach to App Store editorial has been nearly invisible. Editors select apps to highlight and might write short bits of text for use in collections, but for the most part the job has seemed to be more about curation than words1.

This is not meant to disparage curation—it’s an important job and one of the ways the App Store can highlight the hard work of app developers who are making polished, impressive products.

The start of an iOS 11 App Store article.

With iOS 11, though, Apple’s really showing that it has redefined what the App Store editorial team is for. In the redesigned App Store app in iOS 11, app highlights go way beyond buttons that would present an app’s App Store page when you tapped. The new Today tab is populated with full-fledged feature articles, with screen shots, videos, animations, pull quotes, and real writing. There are app spotlights, curated best-in-category collections2, and even how-to articles.

No, this isn’t independent journalism—it’s curation and marketing. But it’s a sign that Apple sees the value in telling the stories of the apps it’s seen fit to highlight.

When I read the sample content that Apple posted in the App Store as a part of the developer release of iOS 11, I was impressed with the level of detail. These aren’t a few sentences of dashed-off app hype; the Monument Valley piece in the App Store is a full-on feature story, well written and complete with quotes from the developers themselves.

It’s a smart approach, though it will be interesting to see how it works once iOS 11 arrives and the App Store team3 is forced to roll out new highlights and features on an ongoing basis. That’s the thing about editorial work, whether you’re writing for a newspaper, magazine, website, or even the App Store—it never stops. Time just keeps rolling on, and your audience is always hungry for new stuff.

Fortunately, given the experience of the last nine years of the App Store, there will probably always be great new apps to highlight—and great stories to tell. As someone who has made his living writing stories about software for a very long time now, I’m a believer in the format. Done well, this will make the App Store better—for both users and developers.

  1. As a person with a high profile editorial background and strengths in writing and editing, I was exactly the wrong person for an invisible curation job. 
  2. We did curated app lists at Macworld for a few years. It’s hard to do well, and a huge time investment. 
  3. Someone asked me if I thought the App Store might just ask developers to write their own articles and send them in. In a word: No. 

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