Apple’s News has launched in the UK in partnership with 14 publishers including The Sun, The Times and The Telegraph as well as magazine titles like Condé Nast’s Vogue and Traveller.

The app is available for users who install the new iOS 9.1 version and brings together an aggregated feed from various channels which users can personalise. According to Apple, its own algorithms will learn what users like to read and will suggest content in line with their interests.

Apple News is one of several new media channels offering to promote publisher’s content. Facebook has just unleashed ‘thousands of Instant Articles’ in the United States with a small test group of publishers including National Geographic and Buzzfeed.

Google’s ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’ (AMP) began its rollout a week ago promising to speed-up the delivery of articles on mobile.

New opportunities

Trinity Mirror have been one of the most committed launch partners for Apple News UK , with 27 of its national and regional titles on the app including The Mirror, Daily Record, Manchester Evening News and Liverpool EchoProduct Director Chris Russell said “the ways consumers access content and news is changing hugely with digital advancements, highlighting the need for traditional media owners to ensure they adapt with consumers.” He believes that Apple News “will help us reach new audiences, as well as offering our readers more choice in how they consume content.”

Broadcasters Sky, ITV and the BBC are also promoting stories through Apple News. The BBC’s Rob Pembrooke, who is in charge of news products, said: “This is part of making our output available in more places. The launch of Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Publishing (AMP) formats present new opportunities and challenges for digital publishers.”

Apple News at a glance

A review of the 14 publisher channels in Apple News UK sees most offering fairly standard HTML text and image articles, with a few exceptions. The Sun appears to be one of the few with privileged access to Apple’s enhanced formatting tools, as well as interactive adverts. This mirrors the US launch where WIRED US stood out from the crowd with parallax scrolling, image galleries and other features that were promised as a key part of the Apple News sell at the launch event on September 9.

Apple appears to be slowly rolling-out the formatting tools along with access to analytics and its advertising tools which allow publishers to embed adverts in their articles.  Publishers have expressed some frustration with their secrecy and lack of engagement. As one High Street glossy title commented to Page Lizard; “They need to learn about working with partners.”

When aggregation goes wrong

apple newsIn the US, many publishers found their web site content had been aggregated by Apple News without their knowledge, resulting in stories appearing without pictures and with broken links. Within the search area on the app a search for a famous magazine brand would often result in links to articles from other publishers. Today the top result on a search for Vogue in Apple News UK goes to a channel listing articles from The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, and The Guardian amongst others. British Vogue itself is listed much further down the page.

There is a further risk for readers as the news app almost exclusively sources content from publishers’ websites. As a launch partner WIRED US showcased some of its leading articles from the magazine issue. What is not clear is whether publishers will promote their brands by using cover stories, albeit truncated, to promote new issues.

There are also a number of issues surfacing with advertising, which so far only appears for those publishers who have had access to Apple News Format. A look at The Sun shows a couple of advertisers displaying thin banner adverts between paragraphs. Tapping on one of these opens up a beautiful interactive ad, but tapping others opens up a warning in Apple that you are about to be taken away from News, with a ‘View/Don’t view” option.

As one publisher said: “There are 360m users with Apple News installed on their iPads and iPhones – it could be invaluable way of growing our business if only we can learn how to use it to our advantage.”

Perhaps it’s less of a case of learning to use it, and more of being allowed to learn to use it…

Page Lizard is organising a discussion among leading UK publishers at the PPA in London on November 10 about their experiences of Apple News, alongside further information about Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s AMP. Attendance is free – let us know if you would like to come along.

Page Lizard is also available in Apple News – search ‘Page Lizard’ or ‘Digital Publishing’ and follow our channel for more digital publishing news and views!

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