Apple’s privacy beliefs may be hitting publishers in the wallet

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Apple News
Apple is gearing up to launch its subscription news service.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Some publishers are not impressed by the ad revenue they’re receiving from Apple News. Ad rates from the platform can reportedly be shockingly low — with one publication earning “low five-figures” per month, and another making less than $1,000 each month.

One big reason for this may be Apple’s privacy stance. This makes it hard for advertisers wanting to get hold of user data. That’s because Apple News doesn’t allow certain types of data gathering or user targeting.

In addition to the privacy aspect, Apple also prohibits “programmatic advertising,” sold by software instead of humans. It also reportedly has a poor track record at selling off unsold ad slots. Instead, many can remain unsold.

Digiday‘s report claims that:

“With few opportunities to sell the inventory directly, most publishers are at the mercy of the NBCUniversal sales team, which began selling Apple News’s remnant ad inventory in the second half of 2017. Those ads fetch a CPM of between $3 and $4, a reasonable rate for remnant inventory, multiple sources said. The problem, those sources added, was that little of their leftover ad inventory was being filled.

One publisher source said that until the beginning of 2019, the fill rate on their remnant Apple News inventory was less than 20 percent. This source said it was such an ‘atrociously low’ number that it made publishing on Apple News less lucrative than publishing through Google’s AMP format or even Facebook Instant Articles, which many publishers abandoned because of its monetization issues.”

Not everything is bad, however

While ad rates may not be what some are hoping for, it seems that Apple News is delivering when it comes to traffic. The app reportedly has in the region of 90 million regular users. The report also cites three sources saying that Apple News drives more of their deferral traffic than Facebook. In particular, being featured in the “Top News” section of the app means a massive traffic boost.

This isn’t the first time that some outlets have reported on the challenges of Apple News. However, this comes at a crucial time for Apple. The company is supposedly getting ready to launch a monthly subscription service. This would offer an Apple Music-style “all you can eat” selection of newspapers and magazines. Apple has come under fire for allegedly demanding a 50-50 split when it comes to revenue. (Although ads would not be included in this split.)

If Apple is going to convince publishers to embrace Apple as a distribution platform, many will want to be convinced of the upside. Then again, how this can be achieved without compromising Apple’s privacy policies is a tricky question to answer.