Just a week after the launch of Apple News in the US, how have publishers fared and what is the outlook for the illusive Apple News Format?
Last Thursday, Page Lizard led a Tech Talk at the PPA Headquarters in London as a follow-up to the previous session introducing News and its implications for the industry.
Sean Briggs, an independent publishing consultant at Creative Workflows, presented updated information about Apple News and the experiences with it so far, as it has been released in the US.
Detailed discussions followed a live demo of the app, with publishers raising concerns and questions about advertising, font licensing, RSS combing and the changing relationship with journalists. A summary of the discussions can be found in our Webviewer report.
“The environment feels wild at the moment,” Sean summarised. “Apple is risking alienating consumers at the start with what feels like an unfinished product. The question is, once the consumer has left, will they come back?”
Publishers were divided about the suitability of News for their brand, but acknowledged that it was a low-investment option to experiment with, perhaps with web content to start. Most agreed that there is no one solution going forwards, and that articles are just one way of reaching a fragmented audience.
We had an incredibly productive discussion from the publishers present about concerns, opportunities and questions for Apple. Below are Some interesting points which arose:
- Some big brands have got access to Apple News format, but this is a comparatively small number. Sean went through a demo of the live News app, and publishers discovered that in some cases, Apple were hoovering up their RSS feeds and presenting it in the app, sometimes presenting the brands as unwitting hosts for other publisher’s content. Commercial brands are sitting comfortably alongside publishing brands, presenting a host of interesting challenges. Some channels have chosen to truncate the stories to drive traffic to their websites.
- Apple has a ‘News Publisher’ area where publishers can manage RSS feeds, create branded channels, sections and topics, and upload their logo. This is straightforward to use.
- Apple News Format (the styling tool for articles) has only been released to a select few publishers, and this is evident in the articles (e.g. WIRED’s highly-styled articles).
Some issues to be resolved:
- There aren’t any ads displayed (even as examples) in the live News app so far.
- Font licensing is an issue that some publishers have been hit with. The current understanding is that if you have bought licensed fonts for your use this doesn’t cover Apple News and further purchases will have to be made for worldwide digital distribution
- Newsstand is full of magazines and News has been billed as a replacement. But so far it looks like a web-scraper and an unsuitable place to publish magazines.
- There are no published guidelines about submitting old ‘evergreen’ content, but as Apple News lists new content only by time/date there seems to be no role for this.
- The app seems to update very regularly (with the oldest stories often being less than a day old). Will less regular (even weekly) publishers simply get lost in the deluge?
- Do Apple even know what they want from this? At the moment, it’s looking to play the role of a fancy web curation tool.
- There’s a big dependency on the audience using the channels. If they don’t stick with it, there could be problems for those who have invested a lot of time and effort.
- One publisher pointed out that Flipboard, Zite, Apple News and the like should be seen as opportunities not threats. It’s cheap/free to get the content in there, so perhaps we should see what happens.
- Most of the reading is being done on mobile, and there are limited styling opportunities. Publishers may have to let go of ‘pixel-perfect’ styling – but what implication does this have for strict branding?
- Some of the publishers that have been working with Apple said that there have been no discussions about monetisation yet.
We’ll be running a third follow-up session on November 10th, after the UK release. This will explore the wider implications of article-based publishing, including developments from Facebook (which is expected to launch shortly) and the Google/Twitter collaboration. Contact us to be notified about any updates.