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‘News’ from Apple: a gift for media partners?

Wired en la iPad© Flickr / Creative Commons / Christian Van Der Henst S.

Apple launched its new ‘News’ app during the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. This content aggregator will be available as a mobile app when iOS 9 is launched next autumn, replacing its current ‘Newsstand’. It is similar to Flipboard and provides a personalised content feed based on a system of algorithms.

The announcement of Apple’s new app has caused a sensation. It is available free of charge and acts as an interface between the media and the public, while, at the same time, helping to expand readership and the media offering. It will include RSS feeds of article summaries and supply readers with content from partner media organisations on the Apple platform. This will speed up loading and consequently reception.

To give their readers that little bit extra, the partner media – including Conde Nast, ESPN, The New York Times and Hearst – have had to sacrifice to Apple what still remained of their preserve, namely content hosting. This is the second time in less than two months that a tech giant has dispossessed the media of this nice little monopoly: last May, Facebook entered into a similar kind of partnership which involved hosting content from Buzzfeed, National Geographic and The New York Times on its own platform.

Users can now read content from their favourite media directly on Facebook or ‘News’, and never have to visit their websites. In theory, this should mean a loss of advertising revenue for publishers as they will no longer be able to monetise their audience with advertisers.

But the contract has its trade-offs. Each Apple partner can include advertising around their content and retain 100 % of the revenue generated. Apple
can sell advertising with this content, but must pay the publishers 70% of all revenue.

While the app will initially be restricted to English-speaking countries (United States, United Kingdom, Australia), it is likely very quickly to outshine both Facebook’s ‘Instant Articles’ and Flipboard. All the more so as the app intends to offer content rich with videos, photos and animation. According to Susan Prescott, Vice-President of Product Marketing for Apple, interviewed by Niemanlab, the app will offer ‘the best mobile reading experience ever.’

If it proves to be as attractive as people predict, it is likely to offer partner media a very nice gain in audience share. But will they really benefit from this deal? The price for this success could very well be a dramatic fall in their website audiences to the profit of Apple and Facebook.

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