On Monday, 25th of March, 2019, Apple gathered the press and figures of highest influence in tech to its California headquarters for some significant announcements. The headline acts of the evening for publishers? A new territory for News – Canada – and the introduction of magazines to Apple News. Say hello to Apple News+.
Now live in the US and Canada, Apple has launched with 320 magazines and newspapers including Time, Vogue, People, National Geographic, Billboard, The LA Times and Wall Street Journal. Following a one month trial, access to all titles will cost $9.99 US and $12.99 in Canada.
So what does Apple News+ mean for publishers?
First of all, full disclosure. We’re the team behind FlatPlan – the system that allows publishers to get onto Apple News with any CMS – and we were delivering content to Apple News+ Canada from launch – so you could certainly say we’re fans of Apple News. But we’re a business that’s powered by publishers, so we have a good understanding of both the platform and the implications for the industry. Here’s all the information you need from the announcement.
Open the new app and you won’t immediately notice a difference to the UI. The free tier in Apple News still takes centre stage, offering curated and algorithm driven news and content recommendations. Magazines appear within the app, neatly flowing into the Today feed. Publishers are given “New issue” and “Featured issue” screen estate to showcase covers, chosen for readers based on their interests and from Apple News editors’ curation.
“Live covers” allow publications to create moving versions of their covers, using motion to leverage their storytelling capabilities and entice readers to click through. The reader that wishes to dive into the magazine is led into a contents page and can view articles in Apple News Format – Apple’s own format that that allows pages to be presented in beautiful, screen-optimised pages with animations, behaviours and custom styles to bring an immersive experience.
Apple News Format?
It’s Apple News Format that sets Apple News+ apart from competitors that offer PDFs which require users to zoom in and out of pages that were destined for the printed page – not designed to be legible in screen. Publishers that make the most of this format will benefit most from Apple’s revenue model, as they’ll offer an experience that builds loyalty and increases dwell time.
So what is the revenue model?
Apple takes 50% of all revenue from Apple News+ subscriptions, with the rest of the revenue going into a pool to be divided between publishers. Revenues are dished out to publications based on the amount of time users spend engaged with articles – dwell time, basically. This gauge for payment isn’t perfect – visually-led articles will rarely attract the same dwell time as long-reads, and weekly publications will arguably have more opportunity to rack up views, but the simple fact is that the more compelling the publication the more revenue the publisher will receive.
It will be interesting to see how publishers react to this new model. We could see a shift to longer versions of articles delivered into Apple News+, or specially produced Apple News+ articles with behind the scenes video and extra photography. The smart publishers will use Apple News Format to go much further than just presenting stories, working with Apple News editors to showcase stories that make full use of the system. We find our FlatPlan ‘Feature’ stories that make full use of Apple News Format offer very high dwell times on Apple News at present – using the format to compel readers and increase revenues is key to success in Apple News+. One thing’s for sure – by focusing on dwell time over pageviews Apple will counteract clickbait – the aim of the game is to keep readers engaged.
Is this damaging to news brands?
Different publishers have different takes on this. Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith have jumped feet-first into the new offering. Wall Street Journal’s approach has been to use Apple News to build new subscriber bases. New York Times aren’t posting to the paid tier at present, but still seeding content on Apple News+ free tier.
What’s clear is that consumer behavior is changing. Netflix has changed how people watch television. Gone are the days of following a schedule – people are now getting used to a world where they control what they consume and when they consume it. Apple News+ is at attractive proposition to the consumer, so while it won’t be right for every publication it’s going to be hard to ignore its impact.
Do we need to share everything?
You don’t. Wall Street Journal is delivering a ‘curated’ selection of stories to the platform. WSJ editor Matt Murray will dictate the stories that make it into the app but William Lewis, publisher of The Journal suggesting that the selection will be a mix of general, political and sports stories, based on stories that do well on the free tier of the platform at present.
How much money could publishers make?
This is hard to predict so early on, but assuming that 2% of the 90 million monthly users of Apple News will subscribe (1.8 million), with 320 titles currently available. If a title was to receive a 1/320 of total dwell time, they could each expect to receive around $28,097 per month.
Assuming the distribution of dwell time were to follow the 80/20 rule, we would expect the top publications to receive roughly $112,387 per month, whilst the majority (80%) might expect to receive around $7,024 per month.
How big could it be?
Apple has a huge user base – 1.4 billion active devices as of January this year. Apple Music has over 50 million paid subscribers, thanks to Apple’s promotional clout. The app will come preloaded with a free trial on all iPhones, iPads and computers, and features push notifications to drive users into the platform. 90 million people use the free tier of Apple News+, racking up 5 billion pageviews every month, so expect this launch to make an impact.
What does the launch in Canada entail?
Canada is Apple’s fourth territory (after the US, UK and Australia). What’s unique about this territory is the addition of a new language – French Canadian. We’re now delivering content for 90Min into both English speaking and French speaking channels. Apple plans to roll the app out into Europe soon, so we’ll see more language support soon.
How do we get onto Apple News+?
Apple News+ magazines is available to publications by invitation at present. Drop us a message if you’d like to talk about how FlatPlan can help your bring your publication into the system.