How Apple plans to make 'Apple News' popular

Apple released its Apple News app without much fanfare – or success – last year. But a rollout of new initiatives plan to target readers and publishers alike. 

Shizuo Kambayashi/AP
In this Sept. 19, 2014 file photo, a customer shows off the new Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus at a store in Tokyo. Apple Inc. on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 said that its App Store customers set a record for billings by spending nearly half a billion dollars on apps and in-app purchases during January's first week.

Apple's news-aggregation service has been running since last year, but only a handful of iPhone users actually use the app. But Apple hopes to change that. 

After launching Apple News last year, CEO Tim Cook said that about 40 million people were checking Apple News daily. But with over 100 million iPhone users in the US alone as of July, Apple sees potential to grow in the publishing field – especially considering the News app is an automatically installed, undeletable app on the world's billion of iPhones with iOS 8. Regardless, Apple admits that its News user data is unreliable and probably inaccurate due to a software bug. 

Apple plans to roll out a number of new initiatives in hope of making Apple News "a thing."

Residents of San Francisco, Chicago, and New York will see billboards for Apple News in the coming months, and the rest of the country will see similar advertisements online. The ads feature an iPhone screen displaying a news article from any number of sources with the simple tagline, "Find it on your home screen," written next to an image of the app.  

While Apple promotes an ad campaign to hopefully grow the number of Apple News-reading regulars, it is simultaneously looking to become more attractive to those on the other side of the market: publishers.

Apple already partnered with over 100 major content publishers (such as CNN, ESPN, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post) at the time of its initial release six months ago. The Christian Science Monitor is also available on the service. And starting this week, Apple will allow any publisher, no matter how small, to partner with the app. 

“This could be anyone from an individual with a blog to a local newspaper or magazine,” writes The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama. “Opening up the platform to publishers of all sizes gives Apple far more variety to offer to its readers, who may want to turn to the app to get caught up on the news.” 

And for old and new publishing partners alike, Apple plans to make article performance easier to understand. 

Apple News publishers have been provided information such as how many people are reading an article, how long they are reading it for, and whether or not they choose to share it with others. But publishers repeatedly complained about lagged results, and sometimes even incorrect data. And now, says Apple, a revised statistics dashboard will make all of this information easier for publishers to read and understand.    

Apple News will also feature a new ad format for sponsored posts as of March, yet another revenue-generating initiative to lure in publishers.

With the new format, sponsored ads will be displayed directly in users’ content feeds, alongside authentic news articles. Except for a small "sponsored" tag, the sponsored ads are “intended to blend in with their surroundings,” explains Apple

“The new ad format would clearly label branded content in the app, as well as give publishers a new way to sell and promote sponsored posts, although it would come at a cost: Apple keeps 30 percent of the revenue it produces through iAd, a mobile-advertising platform,” explains Business Insider’s Kif Leswing. “The updates are another sign that Apple is working on providing ways for publishers and advertisers to monetize the new content platform.” 

Apple’s less-than-stellar initial reports six months ago were surprising considering news aggregators as a whole seem to be doing well. Facebook, Flipboard, and Snapchat all offer users a central platform to organize content from a variety of sites. 

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