Apple Opens Mobile News App to All Publishers in Bid for Readers

Tech Giant Looks to Compete With Facebook, Google

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Apple will make its mobile news app available to publishers of all sizes starting this week, increasing the pool of content as the tech giant competes with rivals Facebook and Google for the attention of smartphone readers.

Smaller media companies, even independent bloggers, can obtain editing tools to publish on AppleNews, which provides a clean, consistent look and feel for articles, the company said Tuesday. The move gives Apple more content, while providing the media outlets with exposure on millions of iPhones.

Apple, Facebook and Google are vying for news junkies with apps that deliver stories quickly to keep users from going elsewhere. Facebook last month announced its program for news on smartphones, Instant Articles, will be available to all publishers after initially being available to a select group. Google unveiled a competing newsreader last month and announced partnerships with many of the same publishers.

Apple News made its debut in September, with articles from a select group of more than 100 media outlets -- including ESPN, the New York Times, the Atlantic and Bloomberg -- starting in the U.S. Stories are curated based on the topics and outlets selected by the reader.

All three Silicon Valley companies are tackling the 10 seconds or more it can take websites to open because they're weighed down by lines of code that deliver advertising. That delay is causing publishers to lose mobile readers and the chance to make money through ads and subscriptions.

Facebook and Apple have sought to fix the problem by asking that articles be posted directly inside their own apps instead of on publishers' websites. Critics have warned that media companies could lose control of their content under this arrangement.

Last fall, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said that about 40 million people were reading articles on Apple News. Yet for several weeks Apple didn't give publishers accurate reader metrics due to a software bug, the Wall Street Journal reported in January.

The company has fixed the problem and plans to reveal traffic figures publicly by midyear after integrating the app with ComScore, the industry standard for measuring website traffic, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Apple will also make it easier for publishers to view data -- such as how many unique viewers read an article, how long they spent reading it, and how often they shared it, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details haven't been made public.

Publishers will keep 100% of the advertising revenue they sell inside the app while Apple will take a 30% cut from ads that it sells, according to the person. Apple will also launch an advertising campaign to bring more readers to the news app, the person said.

While some publishers have embraced these new digital platforms, even posting all of their articles on them, others have been wary and only post a few articles because they want to protect revenue from online ads and subscribers as their print business wanes. Google's program pushes readers toward paid digital subscriptions, but thus far, similar initiatives from Facebook and Apple do not.

~~ Bloomberg News

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