At WWDC, 18 publishers and 50 titles were announced as coming to News. Now Apple has signed more than 50 publisher agreements for hundreds of titles. The publishers run the gamut from old to new and include The New York Times, Conde Nast, Hearst, Wenner Media, The Washington Post, Reuters, CNN, Bloomberg and Vox. Mashable has also signed on with the new News app.
Apple’s goal with News is to create a good reading experience for users, while also creating a good business model for publishers. In that way, Apple is allowing publishers to sell its own ads within the news app and take 100% of the revenue. If publishers can’t fill all of the ad space, they can opt to use iAd to backfill, for the standard 70/30 revenue split with publishers and Apple.
In this way, Apple is hoping to create what it sees as a viable news platform for discovering, consuming and distributing news.
Tools and curation
One of the potential benefits of Apple News is that it isn’t simply a beautified RSS reader; Apple wants to offer publishers a platform to present articles in a visually compelling way.
Right now, Apple has an API that larger publishers can use to integrate with their CMS systems to publish directly to the system or to implement Apple News elements. Conde Nast’s Wired and National Geographic have already used the tools to present articles in this style.
In the future, Apple will be offering broader tools to allow small and medium sized publishers to better present their articles. Right now, publishers of all sizes can sign-up to publish with an Apple ID.
For now, publishing for non-partners primarily consists of formatting your RSS feed correctly, but in the future, Apple will have tools available to make the process better.
Apple also made headlines when job openings for human news curators started popping up.
Sources familiar with the matter tell us that although much of the personalization that will happen with News will be algorithmic — frankly, based on its scale, it has to be — there will be a human layer on top of that. The goal is to create a hybrid experience that isn’t completely algorithmic, but isn’t totally human curated (and thus, unscalable) either.
Apple already does something similar in both its App Store and with Apple Music, where there are algorithmically powered suggestions alongside human-curated and vetted picks.
Making a case for a business
By signing deals with so many publishers, Apple is actively trying to make the case that its distribution system can be profitable — or at least, viable — for its partners.
This is increasingly important as the way users consume news has changed a lot over the last five years. As we head into a mobile-first world, publishers have lots of options about where to distribute news.
Facebook and Snapchat are getting into the distribution game too. And where publishers a few years ago questioned partnering with newsreader apps a la Flipboard — today it just makes good business sense.
Of course, publishers also don’t want to necessarily lose their readers to siloed applications. Fortunately, ComScore will count articles read in Apple News — so audience numbers won’t fall as a result of publishers using the app.
Still, Apple hasn’t expanded exactly what it plans to give publishers in terms of reader information. The company has been upfront with its publishing partners that it is fully committed to user privacy. Still, analytics and data are something publishers need to.
The hope is that Apple’s distribution reach with the iPhone and iPad will be great enough to overcome the lack of specific information its platform might offer publishers.
Ultimately, whether Apple News succeeds or fails depends on whether or not users will use the app. Having a large catalog of quality content at launch is a good first step.