Apple News doesn’t pay off for publishers, despite traffic growth

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Apple News
Apple News is Apple's attempt to steal the news crown from Facebook.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple News is doing better than ever for Apple, but many publishers are still making barely anything from the platform.

According to a new report, lots of publishers are seeing big increases in traffic from Apple’s News aggregation service. However, due to the fact that Apple News keeps users inside its app, rather than redirecting to the original websites, this doesn’t necessarily translate into ad dollars for publishers. Far from it, in fact!

Slate‘s report notes that:

“Launched to rather tepid fanfare three years ago, Apple’s mobile news app has recently surged in popularity and influence, if publishers’ traffic figures are any indication. Sources at several news outlets say they’ve seen their audience on Apple News multiply in 2018 alone.

Some now say it has become one of their top traffic sources, alongside Facebook and Google. At Slate, which disclosed its data for this story, page views on Apple News have roughly tripled since September 2017, and the app recently surpassed Facebook as a driver of readership.”

It’s not just Slate that’s seeing increased page views from Apple News. The Information reported in February that, on some days, Vox receives half its daily traffic from Apple News. Business Insider, meanwhile, reported in May that Vice’s Apple News traffic has more than doubled in the past year.

Mother Jones has seen a 400 percent leap in Apple News audience since last September. (Some outlets report that traffic has stayed flat, however.)

The big problem with Apple News

The problem is converting this into dollars. In some cases, this can work well — particularly when there are exclusives. Apple has paid BuzzFeed to premiere three documentary videos on Apple News before other platforms, although, “such arrangements are not the norm at this point.”

We also suspect that a free book excerpt from Senator John McCain’s political memoir, The Restless Waves, may have helped drive book sales by functioning as a mini-ad for its product.

But there are many times when this isn’t so positive. The Slate report cites sources at media outlets who claim to have seen “little to no revenue” from Apple News.

One issue mentioned is that Apple doesn’t sell many ads inside the app and doesn’t make it straightforward for publishers to sell their own ads, due to the fact that it does’t support many of the common ad formats or systems used online.

Instead, users must develop and sell custom ads just for Apple News, of which Apple takes a 30 percent cut. Matt Karolian, the Boston Globe’s director of new initiatives, is quoted as saying, “The juice ain’t worth the squeeze.”

Based on its own experiences, Slate says that it gets more money from a single article that gets 50,000 page views on its site than from one which rakes in 6 million page views on Apple News.

Apple News: The future is kind of bright?

With Apple News now arriving on macOS Mojave, the future is looking bright for Apple News from the perspective of Cupertino. It has also started hiring some senior staff to help dictate its direction, which underlines Apple’s focus on the platform.

For the upcoming Midterm Elections, Apple is setting itself up as the most “trustworthy” place to get up-to-date information; boasting curated stories from a diverse range of “reliable sources.” Along with the purchase of magazine subscription service Texture, it seems like Apple is moving more into the publisher role than it has previously.

Will this have an impact on Apple’s willingness to throw more cash in the direction of news outlets to get them on side? We’ll have to wait and see. For now, though, it seems like Apple News is making a name for itself in this domain — but with a few dollar sign caveats thrown into the bargain.

Source: Slate