In a lengthy and detailed report from Slate, the publisher indicates that Apple News has generated a significant number of page views but that ad revenue from these views is far less due to the way Apple News works. It is a conundrum for publishers but one they can’t ignore.
According to the report, Slate has seen page views nearly triple since September of last year with it now surpassing the likes of Facebook as a source for readership. They are not alone according to the report. Business Insider reports that their Vice publication has seen its page views double in the last year from Apple News while Mother Jones has reported a 400% growth over the last year.
The challenge for publishers is the ad revenue. Because Apple News keeps the articles within the app itself and does not send readers to the site itself, publishers are not getting very much in ad revenue for those massive increases in page views. Apple, because of privacy and control, wants to keep users in their app which has presented little opportunity for ad revenue. That will change slightly now that Google’s DoubleClick is allowed in a limited fashion.
Chris Schieffer, Slate’s senior product manager, said Slate still makes virtually no money from Apple News even as its audience there has skyrocketed. I did one back-of-the-envelope calculation that startled me: Slate makes more money from a single article that gets 50,000 page views on its site than it does from the 6 million page views it receives on Apple News in an average month.
The challenge is that publishers can’t ignore Apple News. With the challenges that the likes of Facebook have had with fake news, publishers have seen significant drops in traffic from the social network. That was, until 2017, a major source of page views for publishes which has now precipitously dropped. Apple News on the other hand is curated by hand which assures such issues don’t happen – at least in theory. That, for publishers, feels like a safer bet.
Add to this the shear number of devices that News is on. There are 1.3 billion iPhones and iPad that could potentially run the app (although some local regulations prevent it) and Apple News was released on Monday as part of MacOS Mojave. It becomes a numbers came for publishers. At this point, they will live with the lower ad revenue for the page views with the hope that someday that revenue will improve.