Creative Review Apple News Channel

Welcoming Creative Review to Apple News

Recently, we've enjoyed the unique pleasure of onboarding Creative Review onto Apple News. Working closely with the team we strived to create an Apple News channel that communicates as well as its website and print publication, presenting journalism as graceful as the work it covers, presented in an equally tasteful fashion.

What did Creative Review require?

Creative Review occupies an unrivalled position within the creative industries. Alongside the print edition, which you'll find on many a creatives' desk, the digital publication operates inside a 'freemium' framework, where 50% of its content is behind a paywall, and the other 50% is available to anybody. This model launched last year with much success.

Creative Review doesn’t provide dry, industry-only reportage. The team cover everything from art, film and television advertising, publishing to illustration, with unparalleled levels of coverage. Being part of the creative industries isn't a prerequisite to falling in love with its content. And, as their freemium model has proven, new readers who discover the publication will often convert into paying subscribers.

Apple News offers a number of opportunities for a title like Creative Review. Apple's algorithm works to learn a user’s interests and their UI surfaces stories of interest to that user. This allows a story from Creative Review to appear under a story from, say, The Independent, or within a user's personalised news feed, based either on context or personal taste. International users who may never have heard of Creative Review could end up spending plenty of time with their content, which made Apple News an enticing prospect for the team.

Creative Review is published by Centaur Media, and houses a lively, engaged editorial team and a busy development department who work across multiple publications. With that in mind, we had to make their induction into Apple News as smooth as possible and make day-to-day delivery just as straightforward, to avoid obstructing hectic schedules.

As a magazine which writes about the creative industry, we have to be a bit finickity about things like the leading of type and how images sit on a page. I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the draft templates designed by Mathematics…they got CR straight away. We think the final templates do full justice to the brilliant photography, film and design work we write about. What’s even better, is that publishing to Apple News on a daily basis hasn’t added to our work load!” - Salonee Gadgil, Digital Content Producer, Creative Review.

It goes without saying that a publication that appeals to creatives had to be designed well. This is a team that notice and care about the exact spacing between an image and a caption, or the perfect line height on mobile, tablet and desktop. Total control over look and feel was core to the brief, as was paying attention to the finest details, to ensure brand integrity.

How did we ensure Creative Review’s goals were met?

We started out by listening to Creative Review's overall goals and how Apple News could help meet them. From here we offered insights into how Apple News performs and how best to approach growth on the platform. Considering the publication’s freemium paywall model many of these conversations focused around strategies to connect with readers that are most likely to be interested in Creative Review, helping the team to seed specific pieces of content to build loyalty.

Unique to FlatPlan is the ability for us to deliver beautiful "Apple News Format" pages through nothing more than an RSS feed. This meant the resource required from Centaur's tech team was minimal, with the system now running without any need for their developers to maintain. All the editorial team have to do to introduce stories to Apple News is tick a box when publishing a story to their site. FlatPlan automatically maps content by category, so stories are automatically grouped into the relevant section within the Creative Review Apple News channel.

Working to Creative Review’s brand guidelines we designed pages to perfectly replicate the desired look and feel. We then built out pages to be effective across mobile, tablet and desktop. This guarantees that the work Creative Review covers lives up to its full potential, no matter the device. Here’s a desktop story:

Creative Review Apple News Desktop

And here’s a mobile story:

Creative Review Apple News Mobile

A significant part of allowing the publication’s work to proliferate further was the custom footer we built. It appears at the bottom of every article, and working to the publisher’s goals it drives newsletter signups and key socials. Its sleek yet bold call to actions are tailor-made to invite conversions.

Creative Review Apple News Footer

FlatPlan’s simplicity offered Creative Review a quick and easy turnaround on Apple News. Our knowledge of the platform helped Creative Review to launch onto Apple News with a strategy driven by insights and guidance on growth. It's early days, but Creative Review has already seen huge success since launch, with articles featured in the Spotlight and chosen by Apple News editors within editorial groups.

Creative Review in Apple News' Editors' Picks

Welcome to Apple News, Creative Review!


The Complete Publisher's Guide to Apple News+

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.

What’s changed?

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.


Measuring Success in Apple News

Winning out in distributed publishing requires solid evaluation of how each platform contributes to your goals as a publisher. Naturally, digging into data is key to understanding if your approach is working and how to build further growth. With this in mind we asked Barney Perkins, our Data Analyst, to guide us through an in-depth look at Apple News analytics.

The Dashboard

Apple’s commitment to preserving user privacy means integration with Google Analytics isn’t possible. Analysis takes place within Apple’s own analytics dashboard or by manually downloading data for use in systems like Data Studio.

Let’s look at some of the key metrics we monitor within Apple News.

Views

Apple News measures both the unique and total views an article receives. We have observed significant differences between unique views on Apple News and how the same content performs on its publisher’s website. These figures often correlate negatively, perhaps indicating differences in audience interest and the way that Apple News promotes content.

The former is difficult to establish given the limited ways Apple allows us to segment audience data. To drill this down you’ll need to manually track content and performance, which will allow you to better understand the Apple News audience and identify untapped potential for content on other platforms.

Reach

Apple News defines reach as headline views plus article views. Reach closely matches unique views and both are inversely correlated with the proportion of traffic that comes from recirculation. The articles that do a higher proportion of traffic through recirculation don’t seem to get as much reach as those that get the majority of their traffic from the Today Feed, as more users tend to discover content from their personalised topic feeds than the ‘Related’ section at the bottom of an article.

Follows

A user that taps to Follow a publication will be shown more content from that title across the Today Feed — the homepage of the app. A direct link to the publication’s channel in News will also appear in navigation. Naturally, then, building followers is key to driving growth.

The accumulated Follows a publication receives prior to the date an article went live exhibits a positive correlation with unique views. By monitoring data across the publications we handle, we believe Follows don’t just affect reach for those that follow, they send a signal to Apple’s algorithm to expose more stories to other users, too. As your number of followers increases, you can expect to see the size of spikes in traffic increase significantly.

Upon opening your publications’ Follows page, you’ll be presented with a simple chart displaying net follows per day in a given time period, and net follows across the whole of that period. Audience segmentation is available by territory. At the moment this comprises the US, UK and Australian audiences in which Apple News is currently available.

The grey dots along the x-axis (above) mark significant events for your articles — being featured in Spotlight, being featured in an Editorial Group (eg. News Editor’s Picks or Top Videos), appearing in an Apple email, sending out a push notification or being ‘boosted’ by Apple Editors.

An “Editorial Group” — News Editors’ Picks

Notifications

Notifications can be sent to followers by publishers who have been invited by Apple to deliver them. Click-through rate tends to be consistent across publications, but frequency of these notifications needs to be considered; ‘over-notifying’ will lead users to remove notifications for your publication. Notification click-through rate appears to be weighted significantly in favour of iPhone users and in particular males aged 25–34.

Notifications can be used to increase the lifespan of articles that aren’t time sensitive. We believe an effective strategy is to monitor the performance of a piece within its first 24 hours in Apple News, then send a notification. This will give you much more of an indication around interest in the story than sending immediately or following website analytics, as popular stories on Apple News can vary significantly.

Shares

Shares relate to users clicking the Share button within the app, with analytics grouped according to the platform they were shared through: Mail, Messages, Twitter, Facebook and Other. For most of the publishers we work with, the vast majority of these shares are categorised as ‘Other’. Often as high as 98%, this inhibits comprehensive analysis of shares. Given that the majority of Apple News users are on iPhone, we suspect that ‘Other’ shares come from WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or other dark social.

Shares outside of Apple News aren’t trackable in Google Analytics, but at FlatPlan we include trackable links in template footers, allowing publishers to track user behaviour if they leave the platform to visit the publisher website.

Discovery Source

Discovery Source breaks down how users land on your content. Traffic is broken down according to multiple measures: the Today feed (the homepage and default view on Apple News), your channel page, topic feeds (the Entertainment topic page, for instance), recirculation (the area below articles), push notifications, Spotlight, the Today View (the most prominent area of the main page controlled by Apple News editors) and “Other” (which could include external shares to the app article).

Being featured in Spotlight means Apple News editors’ have chosen your story to sit alongside 4–5 others, sitting within a very prominent tab in the app. While being featured here can be a significant traffic driver — particularly if a story is featured on the weekend — don’t regard Spotlight as the holy grail. We often see much higher spikes of traffic to stories surfaced through recirculation, the Today Feed or Topic Feeds — in essence the whole ecosystem works well to help expose certain stories.

On the whole, there is limited demographic data available in Discovery Source to advise on how a channel retains readers, or — in conjunction with other metrics — identify how popular articles can drive traffic to the rest of one’s content. But, with significant deviations from the norm regarding gender or age, for example, an estimate of how traffic flows through the channel can be established.

Loyalty

Apple News calculates loyalty by dividing users by the number of articles they’ve read in the past 28 days, or by the number of days they’ve visited out of the past 28. These numbers will match up almost exactly, and you can use either approach to gauge the loyalty of your users.

At Mathematics we group users by Casual, Loyal, Brand Lover and Subscriber, and using similar measures in Apple News we find Brand Lovers are generally more stable, although this varies a surprising amount across publications. Whilst there is a strong correlation between the behaviours of Casual, Loyal and Brand Lover users, the correlation relaxes significantly the heavier the user, suggesting that it will take time to build core audiences, but that those audiences will follow normal behaviour and spend more time with your content.

Aside from the ways in which we can monitor and drive growth with News Publisher, here are some other points to consider when using the platform:

Article Lifespan

Articles featured on Apple News tend to have a three day lifespan. A feature in Spotlight, Editorial Group or a notification can extend this lifespan up to a couple of weeks, however — effectively doubling its number of unique views.

The Significance of Date

The distribution of unique views over days of the week differs from title to title. After accounting for the significant differences in traffic across a number of publications, the following distribution was found for the the month of October, 2018:

Demographics

There are notable demographic discrepancies across current Apple News’ territories. US audiences seem to be considerably older than in the UK and Australia, with the UK’s audience the youngest. UK and Australian audiences were also generally more likely to use Apple News on iPad. When these are significantly different for a given article, it is possible to predict traffic flow by identifying similar discrepancies. This can be done by cross referencing with other metrics like discovery source and/or time.

It is worth mentioning that there can, at different times, be significant differences in what content audiences find appealing according to territory.

In Conclusion

Apple’s commitment to privacy limits the level of analysis or correlation with other analytics tools, but by focusing on overall publisher goals, tracking these and using Apple News analytics carefully, it’s possible to measure and increase growth on the platform.

Building loyalty from the right audience is key to driving consistent growth, with Follows having the most significant effect on the increase of loyal users. Understanding which content works well on Apple News involves manually processing article data, and stories that spike can often differ heavily from content that does well elsewhere, which can be used to help social teams try to resurface content that didn’t gain traction elsewhere.

Spotlight and other Apple News curated areas can drive huge spikes of traffic but the ecosystem as a whole works very well for exposing good stories and depending on the niche of the publication huge spikes from general audiences tend to be less value compared to solid traffic from audiences directed by specific interest or through similar publications.

We offer Apple News analysis as part of our Pro package at FlatPlan, delivering reports that help align Apple News analytics with overall analytics and offering actionable advice on driving growth  — just drop us a message if you’d like to discuss this.


Apple News redesigned — and now on Mac

Apple has rolled out two big changes to Apple News in the last few weeks, following their annual Keynote event in Cupertino. We felt it would be useful to give a quick rundown on these changes and how they might affect your Apple News strategy moving forward.

Change 1: iPhone/iPad facelift

Open Apple News now and you’ll notice a number of changes to the look and feel. On iPhone, navigation is now reduced from five icons down to three — Today, Spotlight and Channels. Today replaces “For You” and Spotlight works as it did before, with Channels now offering a route into publications, topics of interest, saved stories and search. On iPad, navigation is now displayed as a slide-out drawer, with Channels listed in order of priority on-screen whenever navigation is expanded.

Apple News

The app now displays a wider range of stories across a number of views. More space is given to topics and areas like Your Briefings, News Editors’ Picks and News Top Stories help guide users into content arranged by interest or browsing history.

Change 2: Apple News on desktop

Last week Apple launched Mojave, a new operating system for Mac computers. News is now bundled with this OS, appearing prominently on a walk-through of the new system, with an icon appearing in the dock at all times.

Apple News

The macOS version is similar to News on iPad, making use of slide-out navigation and a window that opens at a similar view to iPad portrait. Users with linked Apple accounts will notice the app is linked to their devices, sharing publications, interests, saved links and viewing history. Notifications from publishers appear on desktop whenever the app is open.

How does this affect your Apple News strategy?

Apple’s updates to look and feel are likely to aid users to find a wider range of content they’ll enjoy. The new setup means your stories have a higher likelihood of appearing within streams of content and topic groupings give more opportunity for stories to appear to those who don’t follow your publication. Apple’s algorithms and natural language processing handle how these appear, so aside from creating well-written, clearly defined content, you don’t need to do anything more here.

Channels give more opportunity to drive users to your channel, particularly on iPad and Mac where your publication name appears prominently. Apple recommends uploading an icon to drive brand recognition — if we look after your publication on News we’ve done this for you already.

More prominent channel links put more emphasis on ensuring the page users arrive to is as compelling as possible. Our advice is to ensure all stories appear on the first tab — removing sections completely may even make sense in many cases. Promoted Articles allow you to maximise impact by pushing your very best stories to the top of your channel. To promote an article, log in to News Publisher and hit the star icon. Promoted articles remove themselves from the top of the page after a few days.

Apple News

If you’re a Preferred Partner, Apple News appearing on macOS gives a new opportunity to reach a ‘bored at work’ audience. We’d recommend testing notifications at times users at work are likely to be looking for a short distraction. Analytics on your main site will give clues to these timings but behaviour may differ on Apple News so trial a few times and dig into Apple’s analytics for data. It’s worth keeping an eye on competitors if they have notification functionality — users who arrive through notifications may, of course, dive into the article stream (and potentially see your content), so avoiding crossover could help increase impact.

As Apple News grows we’d suggest a focus on increasing publication follows. The user that clicks the heart icon is much more likely to see your stories and if you have notifications enabled they’ll receive this prompt. FlatPlan is the only system that allows Call to Actions for this in footers and we’re testing functionality to help increase follows which we’ll be messaging about soon, but it’s certainly worth thinking about how to drive follows from an editorial perspective as well.

One final thought from us — behaviour is likely to change as more people use the app across new devices. Apple News doesn’t sync with Google Analytics so make sure your team keep an eye on Apple’s analytics. You can set your team up to receive a daily, weekly or monthly analytics report by email — to do this head to Analytics > Recurring Report or just hit reply if you’d like us to help.