Apple News May Let Publishers Sell Ads Their Own Way

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Publishers say Apple News is great for finding audiences but much worse for making money.
Publishers say Apple News is great for finding audiences but much worse for making money. Credit: istock

Apple is working on a money fix for publishers that send their articles and content to its News app but so far have gotten very little in return, according to people familiar with the plans.

Apple News will let top media partners use their own technology to fill the ad space in their content, becoming more of an extension of the publishers' own websites than the walled-off island it is now, the people said.

At the moment, Apple maintains tight control over ad delivery in its popular news app, and publishers say they are not generating much revenue there.

Publishers can set up ad campaigns to run in their Apple News articles, with all types of ad formats including standard banner ads and videos. "It just takes a lot of additional effort," said one top publishing executive, speaking on condition of anonymity.

To fix that and keep media partners happy, Apple plans to allow publishers to use the ad tech they already employ on their sites, such as Google's DoubleClick for Publishers, to deliver ads into Apple News.

That would potentially let media partners make as much money from views in Apple News as they do on their own sites, without as much additional effort as the current approach.

Apple News is a surprisingly popular source of audience for many publishers but a black hole when it comes to revenue. That needs to change, multiple publishers said.

"There's a ton of scale there but no dollars," another publishing partner said. "So Apple has to do something soon or publishers will pull out."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple News is the No. 15-ranked app in the U.S. and commands 47 million monthly users, according to ComScore.

The dilemma of publishing on Apple News is similar to the one that other platforms face: Publishers are interested in reaching the audiences these platforms can generate but are weary of giving away their content for free.

Facebook has faced the same skepticism when it comes to Instant Articles, specially formatted posts that load outside content directly on the social network. It's great for readers but costs publishers visits to their websites.

Publishers can sell ads on Facebook Instant articles, but they can't use their usual ad tech to do it. Participants have described ad sales for Instant Articles as less lucrative than on their own mobile sites and apps, and a number have walked away entirely.

Apple has always been loath to adopt the kind of consumer-tracking-driven targeting, a reluctance that has been one of the key holdups to cashing in on services like Apple News. (It is making it easier for consumers to block certain ads in its Safari web browser and to opt out of online tracking programs.) The company would rather see consumers pay publishers for their content, and it has built ways for publishers to sell subscriptions to people in Apple News.

There also are plans to enable micropayment options so people can access articles for cents at a time, according to another Apple publishing partner.

Apple is still a couple months away from opening new money-making avenues on the News app, this publisher said, as it works out the mechanics of making it easier for publishers to serve ads.

"The bigger thing is they've now seen the light," said the top publishing exec, who was familair with the plans but spoke on condition of anonymity. "Apple is acknowledging it can't force its ad technology into the marketplace and it makes more sense to allow standard ad serving."

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