Apple Services part of Apple Affiliate program

Apple News+ Joins Apple's Affiliate Program

Apple has announced a new affiliate program for Apple News+, designed to encourage growth of the subscription news service. News+ joins Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Books as targets for the Apple Affiliate program, following the company’s 2018 removal of App Store purchases and in-app purchases.

Apple has announced that partners may earn commissions on Apple News+ memberships from iOS and macOS signups within a 30-day window in which cookies apply.

We are excited to announce the launch of our latest affiliate program — Apple News+. This is a great new way to earn added commission by linking to a new Apple Service. Apple News+ pays a one-time bounty of 400% on paid membership based on the local market rate. For example, after the 30-day trial partners will be paid $39.99 per membership in the US and £39.99 per membership in the UK.”

The new Apple News Toolbox also features new resources for Apple News+. Apple said: 

The Apple News Toolbox also has separate creative assets for each of the four markets in several standard IAB sizes. Please make sure you download the appropriate banners to use in the respective market(s) you are planning to promote, as each market (US, UK, CA, and AU) has different publications and creative.

The announcement comes as Apple continues to try and boost its Apple News+ subscriber numbers by enticing new publications to the platform. Most recently, Apple reported 125 million active users across News and News+.

Publishers thinking about applying should note that Apple is "only accepting a limited number of partners who can drive significant volume and quality”.


Facebook official Instant Article on National Geographic

Explained: Facebook Instant Articles Boost Reach by 30%

Stalwart regional news title the Liverpool Echo recently conducted an experiment to discover the true value of its Facebook Instant Articles for advertising revenue and engagement. It wasn’t a complicated experiment. The method abided by that old IT fundamental, and the team simply turned them off and on again. They found that Instant Articles increased reach by 30%.

For those unfamiliar, the Facebook Instant Article is a format allowing publishers to create native articles on Facebook that load over 4x faster than mobile web. Reach, the Echo’s publisher, had been using Instant Articles since 2016. But, due to the accelerated rate of change for social and search best practices, Reach wanted to gauge their usefulness against click-throughs straight to their own sites or apps. These findings have come to shape the Facebook strategy for all of Reach’s regional titles.

According to official Facebook figures, Reach’s regional publishers (excluding those based in London) accrued over 35,000 newsletter subscribers between February 2019 and May 2020 via FBIA alone. The Liverpool Echo’s success has been so apparent that it accounts for just over 17% of total newsletter sign-ups across all of Reach’s titles in the same timeframe. 

Facebook Instant Article example on The Washington PostThis was made possible by the Instant Article-specific “call-to-action” buttons that Facebook introduced in February 2019, which help deliver newsletter subscriptions, Page Likes and app promos, all within Instant Articles. So far, Reach has used these buttons to grow its newsletters and drive Likes to its Pages. 

“We know our audience values newsletters, but promoting them has traditionally been down to pushing them through our websites or specifically writing stories about new launches. Using the CTA function in Instant Articles has given us another promotional asset and the take up has been very good,” said Reach’s head of social, Dan Russell. 

In December, Facebook claimed that the top 100 publishers using Instant Articles in the US and Canada saw 48% yearly growth of RPM (revenue per 1,000 impressions) in 2020. The Guardian, however, pulled out of Instant Articles in 2017, citing “woeful” revenue returns as the reason for its decision.

Today, over 50,000 publishers utilise Facebook Instant Articles to deliver their stories. Directing readers away from your brand environment will always mean losing control of your content to some degree. But, as part of a balanced revenue and growth strategy, the extra reach that could come from Instant Articles makes them worth experimenting with. Learn more about Instant Articles here.


Google's official Journalist Studio illustration

Google Journalist Studio: Investigating the “Publisher’s Toolbox”

Google has unveiled Journalist Studio, a suite of tools designed to empower reporters to do their job more effectively. Journalists in renowned newsrooms often struggle to allocate enough time and resources to significant stories. A common frustration arises from the choice between taking weeks on one article, enlisting the help of a team of already-busy colleagues, or writing a program to parse a mound of data.

As such, Google have spent two years developing Journalist Studio with an aim to answering a simple question: “how can reporters focus more time on finding the story, reporting it out and writing the narrative?”

We’ve taken a look at Journalist Studio’s complete toolkit, and broken down how each gadget’s value to individual journalists and publications alike.

The Common Knowledge Project

Google describes The Common Knowledge Project as “a new way for journalists to explore, visualize and share data about important issues in their local communities.” Using Data Commons data, editorial teams can easily create interactive charts from thousands of data points in minutes, embed them in stories and share them on social media. The variety available is huge. For instance, this example made by TCKP displays the number of one-person households in San Antonio, Texas between 2012 and 2018:

Data Commons

Data Commons is “an open knowledge repository that combines data from public datasets using mapped common entities.” It’s complete with tools that make the access, navigation and analysis of massive wells of data straightforward. It includes data from the United States Census Bureau, World Bank Group, the Federal Election Commission, the FBI and many other sources. 

DataSet Search

With its super simple search bar that closely resembles Google itself, DataSet Search is an intuitive tool tailored to allow publishers to efficiently and easily locate datasets that support their story and reinforce their angle.

Google Journalist Studio's dataset search use exampleFact Check Explorer

Fact Check Explorer is a search bar that invites the user to search by keyword. The results presented are a list of unproven claims either made by public figures or circulated on social media presented next to a “True” or “False” verdict from a reputable source, like factcheck.org.

Google Journalist Studio's Fact Check Explorer use exampleData Gif Maker

Data Gif Maker allows publications to decorate their news reports with simple, elegant gifs comparing up to four different figures or terms. Publishers have different presentation options according to what works best for a given story. Here's an example.

Pinpoint

Pinpoint enables reporters to scour hundreds of thousands of documents quickly by automatically identifying the most frequently mentioned people, organisations and locations. It employs Google Search and Knowledge Graph, optical character recognition and speech-to-text technology to search PDFs, images, handwritten notes, emails and audio files automatically. It is, in essence, a “Ctrl+F” command for the future.

Project Shield

Built by Alphabet Inc.’s Jigsaw in collaboration with Google, Project Shield defends human rights, election monitoring and news outlets from distributed denial-of-service attacks. It’s free to use, even for independent journalists.

Tilegrams

A “tilegram” is a map made of tiles where regions are sized proportionally to a dataset, allowing it to truthfully represent demographic data in an instantly clear way whilst retaining a familiar appearance. This free tool allows publishers to browse existing tilegrams that represent popular datasets or make their own for use in interactive online articles.

Google Journalist Studio's Tilegrams use exampleAdvanced Protection

Advanced Protection requires you to use a security key, which is a hardware device or special software on your phone used to verify your identity, to sign in to your Google Account. It provides Google’s strongest defense yet against targeted online attacks. It also provides extra protection from harmful downloads and keeps users’ personal information doubly secure by only allowing Google apps and verified third-party apps to access their Google Account data, and only with their permission.

In these turbulent times, the responsibility of news publishers to report accurately is stronger than ever. Google’s release of Journalist Studio is symbolic of the need for responsible, reliable news coverage and with such a platform behind it, Journalist Studio may just become an industry standard.

Practically speaking, Google Journalist Studio will allow digital publishers of all sizes to access reams of trustworthy data instantly and display it elegantly. It’s an incredibly valuable toolkit for publishers looking to up the value of their coverage without spending a penny.

Visit Google Journalist Studio


COVID-19 map google search results ipad

Google Now Legally Obliged to Discuss Compensating French Publishers

An appeals court has confirmed that Google must begin talks with French publishers about paying to use their content. The decision will likely lead to an industry-wide deal in France, the echoes from which may soon be felt by publishers all over the world. 

What’s happening?

In March 2019, the European Parliament vote decreed that publishers will have the opportunity to negotiate with major technology platforms such as Google for use of their content at a fair price.

It was ruled that search engines and news aggregation platforms must pay to use third-party content, and platform owners became responsible for any content posted without a copyright license. Here, ‘use’ mainly refers to headlines and meta descriptions that appear in Google’s search results pages.

As of Thursday, October 8, 2020, Google is legally obliged to have these conversations with publishers based in France. Publishers can now use them to demand a fee for showing their news snippets.

Last week, Google pledged to invest $1 billion over three years to start paying news publishers for content and to support the launch of a new product dubbed the "Google News Showcase."

This new ruling, however, is different, as it will mean finding a sustainable way to compensate publishers forever, after three years of Google News Showcase remunerations has expired. 

Google is required to open remuneration talks within three months of being asked to do so by publishers. Given that this is such a recent development, there are no reports from publishers on the success of this arrangement. We’ll be sure to update this article as soon as there are.


Man checking Google Analytics

Introducing Valley Elevation, the Secret to Building Your Readership

What is Valley Elevation in digital publishing?

Instead of striving for virality time and time again, Valley Elevation posits that publishers should focus on ensuring their next drop in page views isn’t as deep as the one before it. It’s the belief that reliable audience growth starts with raising the depths of your metrics’ troughs. It aims to extend the shelf-life of content well beyond a lone traffic spike. The clue’s in the name!

Whilst exciting, the rewards born of huge spikes can be fleeting. Even large publishers find their traffic spikes for successful articles last just a day or two. Countless factors beyond the quality of your content dictate how it performs. As such, traffic spikes cannot reliably measure the success of your site overall, nor the effectiveness of your team’s approach. At Mathematics we believe loyal audiences are the key to driving growth in digital publishing, and spikes do also have a tendency to deliver casual readers who only visit once. Focus on them too heavily and you make your work more difficult; virality attracts a different audience each time, and they’re hard to win back.

Successful Valley Elevation allows you to grow the valley floor in your site’s metrics over time, reducing the depth of all dips in page views. One of the many perks of Valley Elevation is that while it requires monitoring and scheduling, it’s simpler than continually chasing traffic spikes and focuses on loyalty, as opposed to ‘drive-by’ readers that don’t return regularly. The latter requires constant strategic u-turns to stay ahead of the latest trending topics. Aiming for momentary spikes in traffic subverts some publishing fundamentals, too, whereas Valley Elevation goes hand-in-hand with a long-term evergreen strategy.

What does Valley Elevation look like?

Here’s an example. Your team secures an interview with a prominent musician and produces a great piece. With Valley Elevation, don’t elevate the article to all social channels immediately. Rather, share to one, and let it run some - but not all - of its course. See if it passes your title’s ‘threshold of success’: the number of impressions and engagements beyond which a post can be considered successful. If so, share it again once these numbers fall to approximately half their peak. From there, an intricately planned drip-feed can begin trickling through all your channels, as you share and re-share the article at perfect moments.

Azula - a successful example of valley elevationHere’s an overview of a specific example, and the steps taken to enact it.

A music title has lined up a feature with a world-famous artist. It goes online on Wednesday.

The music title’s timeline:

  1. The publication examines its analytics data from the past 12 months and uses it to inform its Valley Elevation posting strategy for an important new feature. It discovers that Instagram hits primarily on Wednesday, Twitter on Friday, and Facebook on Sunday.
  2. The feature goes live on Wednesday and is shared to Instagram. Our title starts here because Instagram is where most time is spent by loyal readers - we recommend starting with them. The initial flurry of attention garners 15,000 page views, which is over our title’s ‘threshold of success’, qualifying the article for re-posting.
  3. On Friday, the daily page views have dropped to 7,500; half that of the initial surge. The article is shared to Twitter at 10am and 5pm, and shared again on Instagram with a different caption, sustaining its momentum and bringing it to a wider audience. The feature gains an additional 2,000 page views from these tweets.
  4. Twitter referrals tail off quickly, so the article is tweeted once more on Sunday, and shared on Facebook for the first time. Without much competition, this weekend Facebook share earns the feature an additional 10,000 page views.
  5. By the end of Monday, Facebook is responsible for around 5,000 daily article views. So, it’s given a final push on Facebook, and shared once more.

In theory, the music title has sustained a high volume of readers for its big feature and extended that feature’s shelf-life well beyond what it might have been had it been shared to every social platform at the moment of publication. If they take the same approach with all posts that return enough page views to be considered successful relative to the publication’s size, the troughs in their page views should slowly begin to elevate

Our hypothetical music publisher would have been aided by organic re-sharing that puts the feature in the hands of additional members of relevant reader communities. The title may also communicate their posting schedule with their artist’s PR, who can ensure it doesn’t match theirs, keeping the article in feeds for as long as possible.

Of course, it makes sense to share to different platforms at different times of day. The smart publication will take stock of when its readers engage the most heavily on which channels, and allow that to inform the times of day the content is shared and re-shared. Spend time understanding how your content is consumed so you can promote it when your audience is most receptive. Although, you risk oversaturating feeds if you re-share all pieces the moment their referrals drop to half of their initial traffic surge - only do this if the first post returns enough page views to be considered a success for your title. But, if an under-performing post is attached to an article you’d like to receive more limelight, try something totally different next time.

Successful Valley Elevation settles at an elevation far above that of your start point. It’s what you have to show for a dedicated, expanding audience that never stops enjoying your output. As mentioned before, it doesn’t require an overhaul of strategy; effective Valley Elevation strategy is built on a foundation of robust marketing practices. Valley Elevation requires your publication to consider social strategy on a more atomic level than before, but its payoffs can be invaluable.


Google nest mini on a cluttered desk

Voice Search SEO and Digital Publishing

Only recently, voice search SEO felt far enough in the future to not be a concern. But, such is the nature of digital publishing, it’s become a priority topic in the search industry seemingly in a matter of seconds. While voice search technology overcame its teething issues with the proliferation of smartphones, the popularity of sophisticated voice assistants (smart speakers and compatible smartphones) has snowballed into something of a voice search revolution.

number of voice assistants worldwide 2019 to 2023

  • 20% of mobile queries are currently done with voice search.
  • Nearly 40 million Americans currently own a smart speaker.
  • 5.8 million UK households had a smart speaker as of the end of 2019, meaning over 10 million regular smart speaker users nationwide.
  • 58% of people have used voice search to find information about a local business.
  • 72% of people who use voice search devices claim they have become part of their daily routines.
  • 43% of smart speaker owners use the technology to shop.

Thanks to its speed and ease of use, voice search is a critical area for publishers aiming for SEO success. Much noise has been made about its importance. So, let’s take a look at some surefire ways of successfully optimising content for voice search.

Optimise for Rich Answers

This one’s easier for some publishers than others, but worth exploring all the same. An SEMrush voice search study found that "70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupied a SERP feature (with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result)." In plain English: 70% of voice search answers came from Google’s quick, summarised results (as opposed to a listed search result), like this one:

what is a rich answer rich answer

Here are some effective ways to optimise for rich answers.

  • Implement schema markup to tell Google what part of your article directly answers a search query - it’s a type of data you can add to your HTML to make your site easier and quicker for search engines to crawl
  • The more directly your article answers a search query, the more likely it is to be selected by Google’s algorithm as the rich answer for that query

For more information on rich answers, we recommend Grizzly’s quick guide.

Write With a Conversational Tone

Voice search queries are, by definition, conversational: voice searches are a conversation with the voice assistant. Remember this. The more clinical and “typed” your language reads, the less likely it is to directly address a voice search query.

Google relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to refine its voice search results by processing voice texture and rhythm, and the searcher’s interests and search behaviour. With time, it “learns” the user’s language, accent, and other patterns in the way they speak, and uses them to focus on the semantics of their search query.

When you search in the traditional way, your query might look something like “pubs south East London”. But, a voice search with the same intent might run something like “what are the best pubs near deptford high street station”. 

The technicalities of NLP are intricate, but all publishers need to know is studying the query style of a voice search and anticipating it in their articles will pay off. It shouldn’t mean major stylistic compromises, either - if anything, writing conversationally enhances readability. 

Target Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are those over three words, and regularly appear in conversational search queries as a result. Optimise for the long-tail and you’ll inadvertently help yourself to optimise for rich answers simultaneously.

Minimise Your Load Times

The potential downsides of a slow load time make it a primary ranking factor for voice search SEO like never before. If a voice searcher isn’t returned an immediate result, the conversational nature of voice search is undermined. In practical terms, if you have a slow website that takes an eternity to load, your content won't be selected as the answer to a voice search query. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is an invaluable tool for minimising load times. 

As search assistants proliferate at an exponential rate, refining voice search SEO could be a major competitive advantage for your title. The digital publishing world hasn’t quite started this conversation yet, and you won’t regret getting ahead of your peers.


The Athletic when subscriptions are linked with Facebook account linking

News Subscription Account Linking on Facebook Brings Results for Publishers

As an effective digital subscription strategy continues to become more important for digital publishers than ever before, Facebook has developed a new account linking tool that improves how Facebook users interact with news content from publishers they subscribe to. While it has yet to be gifted a catchy name, the tool allows users to link their digital news subscriptions to their Facebook profile and access them easily, all in one place. News subscription account linking works by matching digital subscribers to Facebook profiles, then sending these profiles an invitation to link their subscription accounts.

The aim of this new feature is to strengthen publishers’ relationships with their subscribers, whilst simultaneously improving the news consumption experience on Facebook for those subscribers. It is, in theory, a win-win. One key way news consumption will be improved for Facebook users is that once this new tool is live, linked subscribers will not meet paywalls when accessing articles via Facebook, nor will they be asked to sign-in every time they click an article by a title they’re subscribed to.

Also, subscribers of eligible publishers will see more of their stories in their Facebook News tab. At the moment, these “eligible publishers” are all US-based, but Facebook plans to expand over time.

Facebook user's linked magazine subscription feed

Facebook has tested this tool with a select few publishers already, and the early results look promising for both subscriber engagement and content distribution. In June, a test group who had linked their subscription accounts on Facebook had on average 111% more article clicks compared to those not in the test group. In the same period, publishers’ Facebook followers jumped from 34% to over 97% with subscribers who had linked their accounts.

David Grant, program manager for the Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator programme, said: 

Publishers in all world regions are building sustainable, enduring relationships with loyal readers. Through account linking, we hope that Facebook can be a powerful extension of those efforts, helping news organisations drive deeper subscriber engagement and bring more paying readers to their high-quality journalism, which is the foundation of keeping communities informed and connected.”

So, what’s next for this feature? Facebook has outlined the upcoming steps it’ll take to improve the subscriber account linking tool:

  • It’s adding additional partners to the product test.
  • It’s actively working to measure subscriber retention driven by account linking, and other approaches to measuring impact for publishers.
  • It’s testing new places for subscribers to link their accounts within the Facebook app, such as within Facebook News.
  • It’s actively working on an approach that would allow subscribers to directly initiate the account linking process on publisher websites.

Google Analytics on rollerskates

Publishers Can Now Determine Google News' Traffic Value

Google has formally introduced a new feature to Search Console which will finally disclose how much traffic Google’s News areas give publishers, who also now have the ability to analyse the traffic that arrives via the News tab in search results. This new functionality will reveal impressions generated solely by the News section. Here’s how the filter looks in Search Console:

Google's new News search type filterAccording to Google, this feature has been heavily requested for quite some time. And yet, its recent addition means that archived data is unavailable. The tech giant offered further details in an email sent subsequent to the announcement, which states:

“We’ve recently added new data to the Performance report in Search Console: Google Search’s News tab data. This data shows clicks, impressions, and click-through rates for any links seen in the “News” tab in Google Search results. To access this data in the report, click the “Search type: Web” filter on the top of the report, then select “News”.”

This addition to the Search Console is a valuable one that will undoubtedly help inform numerous digital strategies with a view to succeeding in Google News. If you’re a publisher who’s recently decided to investigate the platform further, you might be relieved to hear that you no longer need to submit your site in order to be eligible to appear in Google News. Google’s official guidance reads: 

“Publishers are automatically considered for Top stories or the News tab of Search. They just need to produce high-quality content and comply with Google News content policies.”

Also, consider taking a look at Google’s “Webmasters” series. Here, it features a list of essentials publishers must consider if they’re going to succeed in Google News. 

Unsure your publication receives the traffic it should? Mathematics’ gap analysis service is designed to identify holes in your digital strategy, and increase readers and revenue with a thorough investigation into distribution platforms, personalised to your publication’s unique goals and needs. Head here if you’d like to know more.


Facebook Status area

Publisher Essentials: Facebook Updates Algorithm to Boost “Original Reporting"

For better or worse, the USA’s 2020 presidential election is drawing closer. Historically, Facebook’s News Feed has been criticised for giving biased, amateur news and misinformation precedence equal to - and often greater than - quality reporting. To put it bluntly, that’s a dangerous game. Now, it seems, Facebook realises this, and has renewed efforts to uphold the integrity of its News Feed to minimise culpability for the election’s outcome. 

The tech giant will achieve this by “prioritising original reporting”, an executive told Axios. Artificial intelligence will analyse groups of articles on a particular topic and identify those most often cited as the original source of a story.

Isn’t “Original Reporting” Difficult to Define?

Yes, but thankfully, Facebook knows this. They’ve been talking with leaders in both editorial and the business end of publishing to help define this term accurately, and bolstering their results with user research. The outcomes of these processes will be fed to its algorithm, so that it becomes increasingly more proficient at identifying “original reporting” as a news story’s original source.

What Else Should Publishers Know About Facebook’s Algorithm Change?

As it stands, Facebook will focus on English language news sites and stories. It’ll begin integrating other languages in the near future. This leads to another key point publishers should be aware of: right now, the algorithm changes only apply to news.

Facebook’s good intentions have seen it hit a hurdle regarding bylines: the company stated that its new algorithm will limit attention given to stories without bylines or titles that don’t make information about their staff easily available. And yet, they acknowledge that often, anonymity is vital for the protection of journalists. How they’ll address this conundrum remains to be seen. In the meantime: publishers, make your bylines clear, if you can.

The brand expects publishers to see a small but definite traffic boost from original reports. This is a minor but useful algorithm update, but a critic could characterise it as something Facebook will be able to identify as an attempt to fight against misinformation that in fact comes at no great effort to Facebook.

This change comes just as Google announced that in its “new news product” - more details on which will be available soon - it will begin paying publishers for “high-quality content”. Time will tell if tech giants siding with responsible publishers represents the beginning of a significant change to our industry, or merely a PR trend.


Google street sign in Cologne

Will Publishers Really Be Paid by Google’s New News Product?

Google, it seems, has had a change of heart. After years of not paying publishers directly for distributing their work, the tech giant is working on a licensing programme that will pay publishers “for high-quality” content as part of a “new news product” launching in late 2020. For a while now, regulators have been attempting to force Google to pay publishers. Google has always aggressively resisted the idea, threatening to even pull Google News out of Europe should the EU impose such policies. This new product seems to represent Google’s attempt to outrun that threat by making payments on its own terms.

Brad Bender, Google’s VP of product management, has said that the new programme comprises two elements:

  1. Google will pay select publishers to distribute their work - whether it be video, audio, images or text - as a part of a new news product, details of which have not been made public.
  2. Google is willing to pay publishers for access to paywalled content. The company will offer that premium content to users for free.

The programme appears to have been in the works for some time - Google has already signed partnership agreements with national publications in Germany, Australia and Brasil, including Der Spiegel, The Conversation and A Gazeta

Google News on mobile
Details on Google's "new news product" are hazy, but the company will pay publishers for "high-quality" content

Clearly, details on Google’s “new news product” are hazy. The blog post in which it was announced says the upcoming service “will help participating publishers monetise their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests.”

But, many industry insiders are sceptical. Joshua Benton of Nieman Journalism Lab has criticised the announcement as a PR move: a democratic facade that’s only surface-level. Google and Facebook are repeatedly blamed for the turbulence of the news industry, so announcements such as this are wins for these companies. 

“From the duopoly’s perspective, the biggest problem with paying for all the news coursing through their digital veins isn’t the money. (They have plenty of money.) It’s that paying for news in any systemic way would attack their core advantage as platforms: organizing other people’s content,” Benton argues.

If you’re a publisher keen for every advantage that wishes to integrate with Google’s upcoming news product then apologies, but that information’s not available yet. We’ll update this article the moment further announcements come. But, we request that publishers are mindful. If Google wants to pay you to keep doing what you’re doing, take the money. But consider that this new product is equally concerned with solving Google’s problems as it is your own.