More software woes? Apple doesn’t know how many people use News app


Apple News app
iOS 9's News app is the latest Apple software to take a beating.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

iOS 9’s News app may be decent enough at aggregating news, but it’s less good at successfully estimating the number of users who actually use it on a regular basis.

According to Senior VP Eddy Cue, Apple has been significantly underestimating the number of readers who have used News since its launch — and has passed this inaccurate information onto publishers.

Although publishers don’t pay to have their content featured on Apple’s News app, having accurate information about readership is of crucial importance for allocating resources and advertising focus. Apple lets publishers keep all of the revenue they get when they sell their own News ads, but Apple takes a 30 percent cut if it sells an ad on publishers’ behalf.

The Wall Street Journal notes that:

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, said [Apple] missed the [accuracy] error as it focused on other aspects of the product. The company didn’t explain how the problem occurred or say exactly when it might be rectified.

“We’re in the process of fixing that now, but our [given] numbers are lower than reality,” he said. “We don’t know what the right number is,” but he added that it was better to undercount than overcount traffic.

The fact that Apple’s been underselling — rather than overselling — the success of the News app is, of course, a positive, but this is still another negative blow for a company whose software has been coming under fire lately. Recently Walt Mossberg wrote that Apple should focus on fixing its software in 2016, and there’s no shortage of feedback from Apple customers who also think this way.

Publishers, meanwhile, have expressed disappointment with Apple’s News app — with such notables as Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp lining up to, well, rip on the service.

“They’re not generating a ton of views or traffic, and the data they provide is basically nonexistent,” one publisher said. “They claim they’re working out kinks, and they probably will. I’m disappointed, but I’m not giving up on it.”