Today, we have a few million channels to watch (thanks to YouTube) and just like 1999, nothing is on that is worthwhile to watch. So, let’s read the news, right? Uh uh. We’ve gone from a few newspapers and magazine to more news and information sources than can be digested.
Does Apple have a solution to the blight of 21st century news sources? Yes. And, of course, No!
A few years ago Apple decided to save the news industry. Why? Well, first, the news industry needs to be saved. And, second, a single source of news choices is better than 127 different apps or managing an RSS reader (far too difficult for the average Mac, iPhone, or iPad user).
Enter Apple News, Cupertino’s savior of publishers, a single app that gathers news from choices you make, and assembles all the news you really need into a single source that voids the need to download and managed dozens of different applications; iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
What’s the problem?
Apple sends almost 100-million customers to News each month; far more than any single news source, curates the whole mess by hand which filters out alt wing nuts yet manages to keep a variety of sources closer to mainstream and far from lamestream.
Publishers should love Apple News except for one thing.
Or, rather, lack of money. Publishers complain that News brings in clicks but not enough to match the revenue they get from ads on their own websites. Cheap crumbs, meet dearth of even cheaper crumbs.
Last year, Apple News brimmed with promise for publishers, offering an engaged, high-quality audience that seemed to do nothing but grow. Ad revenue wasn’t great, but at the start of 2018, most publishers assumed that would come around
Because why? Well, what goes around, comes around; except when it doesn’t, and in the case of revenue from Apple News, it didn’t.
One year later, most publishers are still waiting. Monetization on Apple News remains a slog… One source said their publication earned “low five-figures” every month from Apple News; another said they earned less than $1,000 per month.
No names were named so we don’t have a good idea about which publishers are not happy and which are happy with News, but clearly, there are problems with News, and it’s not the kind of problem that impacts readers.
I love Apple News. Publishers hate it. Only one of us has a good choice.
First, Apple’s privacy focus means they can’t take advantage of the most profitable form of advertising: highly targeted ads.
It’s not as if News is packed with advertising. Worse, there isn’t much pull through to publisher websites. I click on News articles, read the news, click around more, then go about my day and never see a page on The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or Slate or Buzzfeed, or any of dozens of my news and information source favorites.
Publishers are not making much money because there isn’t much advertising, and perhaps less clicking to go to a publisher’s website.
Second, Apple also prohibits the use of something known as ‘programmatic advertising’ – when ads are sold by software rather than human beings. This also rules out real-time bidding, when ads sold to the highest bidder in automated auctions.
Yeah, as if that methodology has worked out for publishers so far.
Third, while Apple claims that it will sell any unsold ad slots, it has a terrible track-record for achieving this, leaving anywhere from 75% to 85% of slots unsold.
That tells me that Apple is just like publishers. Both are crummy at selling advertising.
There is a little good news: all the publishers contacted said they were seeing increased traffic being driven to their own websites, and that is likely their best hope for indirect Apple News monetization.
Again, “all the publishers” could be 300 or just three, but how good would it work out for publishers if they could put their own ads into Apple News to fill the 85-percent of ad slots not filled?
Obviously, News is a work in progress, and Apple should be applauded for an attempt to help save a seemingly dying industry, but the world revolves around money and making sure that news and information publishers get enough to stay in business would benefit Apple and customers, too.