Publishers including Vice Media and The Stylist Group say they’ve gotten traffic and, more importantly, revenue lifts from Apple News in the last three months. While this is from a small base, for some publishers it signifies that patience with publishing to the platform, which has been widely accepted as good for brand awareness but lagging revenue, is starting to pay off.
Between April and June, ad impressions on Apple News for female-focused title Stylist have tripled while revenue has increased by 100% in that period, according to the publisher although it wouldn’t share from what base. However, it expects to generate over £10,000 ($12,100) in monthly revenue by the end of the year. A second magazine publisher, requesting anonymity about its commercial operations, has seen an increase in ad revenue from the platform of 145% from June to July. A third news publisher, also requesting anonymity, reported that weekly pageviews jumped to over 1 million in July, the first time to reach that level.
“Apple is under pressure to make money beyond selling hardware, and it’s sitting on billions of impressions,” said Owen Wyatt, managing director of The Stylist Group. “It has massive scale, guaranteed brand safety, and Apple is a privacy-focused company. The risk is so low as an advertiser.”
Vice is another publisher noting Apple News revenue catching up with traffic.
“We see really strong readership across our channels and have a great relationship with the Apple News editorial team,” said Olly Osborne, general manager, Vice, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Backfill revenue has been slower to catch up, but we are now seeing very promising revenue uplifts each month.”
In the U.K., 10.5 million visitors used Apple News in June, placing it 15th in the news and information category, according to Comscore. BBC News leads Comscore’s news category with 39.8 million unique users, followed by Reach Group and The Sun with 39.5 million and 33 million visitors respectively. Due to a change in methodology, Comscore couldn’t share earlier Apple News stats.
Aside from a popular few months for content, one reason for revenue upticks, according to publishers, is that ad buyers are scoping out more alternatives for cookieless-advertising environments. Apple News has targeting capabilities based on data collected from how people behave within the platform, advertisers can target topics and genres like sport or beauty. The platform’s deal with Teads to sell video inventory, announced in October, is also starting to bear fruit.
The swing to contextual targeting is gaining traction as reliance on third-party cookie-based advertising is steadily reducing due to tighter data-privacy regulation and anti-tracking changes made by browsers, like Apple’s Safari.
A fifth news publishing executive has generated around 9 million pageviews on Apple News on a good day, numbers that can reach 20 million depending on the news story and being featured in the Top News section of the platform, exposing the content to a wider audience. For this publisher, Apple News monthly revenue translates to thousands of pounds, albeit in the single digits.
“We’re seeing quite good traffic from Apple News, but the revenue is not show-stopping,” said this publishing exec. “We decide which content we are going to publish there so we can turn it up or down as we please. In a way, it puts publishers in charge of their own destiny.”
The grumbling around revenue restrictions on Apple News stems from the company’s policies on targeting and tracking, which so much of the digital advertising ecosystem is built on. Publishers can sell their Apple News inventory direct, although this requires a lot of dedicated resource for a pretty narrow distribution channel.
“In the digital ecosystem, the direct pot is getting smaller and has been over the last five years,” said the fifth publishing exec. “We wouldn’t have a salesperson to sell this tiny piece of traffic.”
Apple hasn’t shown much interest in the advertising business; it does sell publishers’ remnant Apple News inventory, but publishers in the U.S. have previously complained of abysmally low fill rates of between 15% and 25%. Apple takes a 30% revenue cut from selling the ads.
In the U.S., publishers have been frustrated with slim returns from Apple News in February this year. Publishers have also been occupied with Apple News+, the platform’s subscriptions aggregation platform, which hasn’t yet landed in the U.K. The reception has been rocky, with publishers complaining about design issues and fears the platform could jeopardize ad campaigns.
“I can’t wait for the day that Apple gets serious about advertising and revenue share inside Apple News,” said the third news publishing exec.
It’s accepted that Apple News monetization lags behind what publishers can make from Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages and display ads on their own site, which can be sold programmatically. That said, there are still other platforms publishers are happy to experiment on without clear monetization prospects.
“We still do IGTV and get zero,” added Wyatt, “whereas on Apple News, every time a pageview is monetized, I get reimbursed a fair value of the CPM I am providing them.”