Aldo Agostinelli

Safer, easier to use and human: Apple News feed service is becoming more and more successful. Still, regardless the number of articles provided, revenues are low.  And definitely lower than those generated by Facebook, Google and the other platforms. However, many people like it and have been investing in it.

The reason of this may be the so called “coming down effect”. After everybody, small and big media included, got high about Facebook news feed in 2016, when a huge quantity of free contents would be provided to the platform with the aim to have readers redirected towards publishers’ websites, with the consequent transformation of views into adv revenues, traffic, likes and articles sharing have now started decreasing. Over the past twelve months, the growing number of fake news and the scandals concerning the sale of users’ data have negatively affected the social platform reputation and given a cold shower especially to readers.

At the same time, thanks to a safer and better controlled ecosystem, Apple News  has been growing steadily and has become one of the main sources of news along with Google. In some cases it even managed to triple the number of views some papers could count on, basically earning twice as much as Menlo Park giant (The Temptation of Apple News).

Apple news walled garden appeal mainly derives from its totally different approach: less algorithms and more human work applied to the selection of articles. Differently from Facebook, Cupertino has hired real journalists for handling contents and partnerships with publishers and this has resulted in the creation of a platform which looks like an online magazine in which judgments on the value of the contents and the newness of the news prevail over viral clicks and in which also headlines are sometimes accurately rewritten. Readers hare appreciated this and are consistently increasing. According to Business Insider, Vice traffic generated by Apple News has almost doubled over last year and  ABC News has recorded an increase of + 400 thousand subscribers through its app (Publishers are falling in love with Apple News).

Many readers, little money

However, along with many enthusiasts there are also several critics. The service quality is undisputed, but adv revenues are low. And if for some publishers the increase in the number of readers compensates the financial disappointment, as declared to Slate by Matt Karolian, manager of the publishing division of the Boston Globe, for others “The juice ain’t worth the squeeze.

The problem is that Apple tends to retain readers within its app rather than redirecting them towards newspapers websites and there advertising is a complex issue: Apple News doesn’t support some of the most common advertising systems which currently rule the world of online advertising and not all media agencies intend to develop and send ads especially designed for the app. Let’s take Slate as an example: the magazine has calculated that one article accounting for 50 thousand views in their website can earn as much as six million views on Apple News. In order to put a remedy to this situation Cupertino has recently allowed publishers to publish ads through Google AD Manager but it is still too early to understand whether such move will have some relevant effects, especially when it comes to small newspapers (Apple News officially lets publishers use Google’s DoubleClick to serve ads).

An investment into the future

So why should publishers stick to Apple News? Mainly because it has been installed inside  1,3 billion iOS devices and also on desktop PCs thanks to MacOS Mojave; secondly, its quality and reliability are undisputed; thirdly because users’ data are protected and finally, because many believe that with such a vast audience there may be indirect sources of income. Thus, only few are leaving ( see the Guardian), those who are in mostly stay and those who are not hope to be allowed in and find their own space. Those like local newspapers which have been feeling neglected: according to a survey conducted byTow Center, less than 4% of newsletter stories come from regional papers (Study: Apple News’s human editors prefer a few major newsrooms) . And this is  something Cupertino should work on.

What do you think about news feed services? Tweet @agostinellialdo.

To find out more about the digital world, you may read my latest book: “People Are Media” 

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Aldo Agostinelli