I honestly never expected that I’d be frustrated enough by an app update to go ahead and write a whole blog post about it but here we are.

For over ten years the BBC News app (now much more snappily named BBC: World News & Stories) has been a staple on any phone I’ve owned – in fact, it’s been one of the first apps that I’ve installed on any new device that I’m setting up. Unfortunately, I think that’s now changed.

While the app itself has never been anything I’d consider exciting – it had one job, and it did it really well. It showed me the news. Along with the ability to browse through the top headlines, you could filter content by category or country, watch a selection of news videos and have breaking news stories delivered to you in the form of push notifications (which were always accompanied by the BBC News sound, much to my delight.

The app was a free download and was supported by ads in their content and as pre-rolls before videos.

Unfortunately, all good things come to a close. A few days ago, a large update rolled out to their app. They’d been openly advertising the coming changes for about a week ahead of the change, primarily as an exciting update that would provide users with more content. While that’s true, in many ways the new app feels like a large step backward.

I don’t like being nagged to create accounts

I’ll start with my biggest gripe. Unnecessary, constant, nagging to create an account. The first time I opened the new app, I was asked to create a BBC account. As a general rule, I try not to sign up for accounts where I don’t have to – I already have like 10,000 unread emails and don’t really need to add to that list.

I skipped the prompt the first time I opened the app and kind of expected that to be that – and it was, until I closed the app and reopened it. In fact, it turns out that every time you close the app and re-open it, you are prompted again to create an account.

Worse, and much more annoyingly, it will prompt you even when following a push notification to a breaking news story. More frustratingly still, there’s even been a handful of times that following a push notification leads me into a loop of clicking “skip” just to be prompted with the exact same sign-in page again before making it to the article I’m trying to read. Not a great user experience.

I’m at the point where I’m considering creating an account just to get rid of the prompts – but I really don’t want to. Maybe they’re relying on that as a factor to increasing signups?

I really only want to read the news, nothing else

The whole reason that I liked the BBC News app in the first place was because I like to read the news, nothing more, nothing less. To take a popular news app and jam it full of “fluff” content is kind of insulting to users that are now having this content stuffed down their throats despite never wanting it in the first place.

While the app still does contain (as far as I can tell) the same amount of actual news content, it seems harder to actually surface that content now. They have put some effort into showcasing live content more prominently now, but even that it does in a weird way. Instead of presenting that content natively in the app, it instead loads the BBC News website in a frame within the app, causing odd display issues on some content.

Too many notifications

I’ve noticed some notification creep for a while now with the app, even before this latest change. It feels as though I used to only get breaking news notifications – but recently there’s again been more in the way of “fluff”.

Yesterday is actually a good example of this – if you didn’t hear, there was an earthquake in New Jersey. I got two notifications from the BBC regarding it. The first was a straightforward “breaking news” notification – makes sense. The second came hours later and was a “here’s what people thought about the situation” piece. Clearly one story deserves slightly more attention than the other.

I do understand that the BBC relies on ad revenue to exist outside of the UK and that clicks on articles drive ad revenue. The problem that I have is that an established brand such as the BBC should also be concerned with their overall brand reputation and factor that into their decision making. Sending me 10 notifications a day and only half of them being actual news stories is a great way to have me either disable the notifications or delete the app. That won’t help your ad revenue.

I’m not the only one

For a brief moment I considered that maybe I was the problem here. I’ve been prone to the odd knee-jerk reaction to change in the past. This time though, it would seem there’s some real upset.

One of several recent negative reviews of the BBC News app on the Apple App Store

In conclusion

Am I going to delete the BBC News app now? Probably not, but this is the first time that I’ve actively considered doing so. With other users also voicing concerns, I’m optimistic that the BBC will hear some of this feedback and course correct before they lose readers, therefore ad revenue.

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