Recently, Tim Cook unveiled that Apple News has attained 125 million monthly active users, including Apple News’ paid subscription tier, News+. Despite this, publishers have been curious about what else Apple News can offer. So, Apple has unveiled additional functionality for News+: the tech giant will add audio content to its premium news app. 

What’s happening?

Apple has, over the last few months, been making efforts to attain permission to create audio versions of publishers’ articles for Apple News+.

How is Apple adding audio to News+?

Apple will handle production costs. Apple will reimburse publishers in the same way as it has always reimbursed News+ publishers: 50% of all subscriber revenue is divided between publishers according to how much time News+ users spent with their content over the last 30 days. The articles will be read by actors. 

Why is Apple doing this now?

In a general sense, this focus on audio fits a wider digital publishing trend; over the last few years, demand for audio has grown considerably. Audio articles make content more accessible to the busy reader and have been trialled in-house by the likes of The Atlantic, The Financial Times, The Guardian and more. 

In the past year alone, Google, Spotify and Amazon have all unveiled similar products. Google’s ‘Your News Update’ service for Google Assistant, launched in November, allows publishers to be paid directly. The New York Times even acquired Audm, a company that allows publishers to turn long-form stories into audio, in March.

Of the publishers approached by Apple, some remain skeptical due to concerns over the cost of this convenience. After all, this update is aimed at the busy, commuting News+ user, but it takes longer to dictate a story than it does to read one. But, Apple’s action follows a clear trend in favour of audio, and the involvement of actors represents an enticing USP.

What should publishers be aware of?

Turning an article into audio is technically repurposing. Publications don’t often have contracts with freelancers that allow for work to be repurposed without specific consent or an additional fee. Publishers must consider this. To circumvent this issue, two of the aforementioned publications that Apple has approached will be pitching articles of their choosing to Apple directly, to avoid any issues pertaining to intellectual property.

Apple has yet to confirm a launch date for this feature, but when eventually it is rolled out, we’ll be excited to watch the benefits of this new experience come to life. quashes publisher apprehensions around the usefulness of the platform.