Published On: Sat, Sep 17th, 2016

Apple Makes Changes To News App

A year after its introduction, Apple News will now allow publishers to sell subscriptions through the app. Readers who have upgraded to iOS 10 will be able to subscribe to 14 publications through Apple News and pay using their iTunes accounts.

Apple Changes To News App

Publishers participating in the new program include the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, National Geographic, Time, People, Cosmopolitan, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. Other publishers are expected to join the program in coming months.

The subscription element with the new version of Apple News essentially brings back a major element of the old Apple Newsstand app.

Apple launched Apple News in September 2015 to replace Apple Newsstand with a customizable feed of news content from a variety of publishers, as well as breaking-news notifications. The new service attracted over 100 publishing partners world-wide, but revenue from the application was limited only to advertising dollars. Previously if readers wanted to subscribe to participating publishers they had to do so through the app store.

With Apple News, publishers keep 100% of the revenue from ads they sell themselves, but Apple takes a 30% cut of ad revenue if the ad is sold on behalf of the publisher by Apple.

The new version of Apple News allows publishers that offer subscriptions to sign up new customers within the app. Under the terms of the deal, Apple will collect 30% of the revenue from new subscribers and 15% from renewals.

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Apple will control the payment setup, allowing it to collect data on subscribers such as address and payment information. Apple declined to comment on how much of that data will be passed on to publishers.

In the past, the control over customer data was a contentious issue between the technology company and media firms.

At least one high-profile publisher that had been a launch partner for Apple News last year has now opted out of the program. The Financial Times said it has ended its partnership with Apple News.

It isn’t the first time the two companies have broken up; in 2011, the publication pulled its apps from the Apple store in a fight over control of customer data obtained through subscriptions.

“We regularly experiment with new ways to deliver our journalism with a focus on platforms that achieve reach while complementing our business model. After a trial period, we have decided to focus our efforts elsewhere,” the FT said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment on the FT’s departure.

At its launch, many publishers had expressed hope that the new app, which comes preloaded on all of Apple’s devices, would give them access to hundreds of millions of news readers around the world.

But the service got off to a rocky start. In January, it emerged that Apple had been underestimating the number of readers using the app, which impacted publishers’ ability to sell advertising.

In addition, many publishers said traffic to Apple News content during its first year was actually outpaced by the news section of the “Spotlight” search function that linked to articles on publishing partners’ websites. (Spotlight is accessed by swiping left from the home screen on iOS devices.) But in August, Apple made a change that now drives Spotlight readers to the Apple News app rather than to publishers’ websites.

While some publishers say traffic to Apple News content increased at a similar rate to the decline in traffic to their websites from Spotlight, there is the potential to have an outsize impact on advertising revenue since Apple takes a cut of the revenue from Apple News ads that it sells.

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