Apple News Is Driving a Lot More Traffic to Publishers

Gannett Tribune
USA Today, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers are displayed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Monday, April 25, 2016, in Chicago. Newspaper publisher Gannett said Monday that it wants to buy Tribune Publishing for more than $388 million, in a deal that would give the owner of USA Today control of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Kiichiro Sato — AP

A little over a year ago, Apple introduced a news-reading app called Apple News, which offered readers a curated view of the top articles on various topics. But despite a high-profile launch, the new Apple feature didn’t seem to get much traction in its challenge to Google News and apps like Flipboard.

That appears to be changing, according to a recent report from the Nieman Journalism Lab. After some recent tweaks to Apple News—including support for breaking-news alerts—some publishers say they have noticed a distinct pickup in traffic generated by the Apple (AAPL) feature.

CNN’s chief product officer, Alex Wellen, told the Nieman Lab that the network’s Apple News content got more than 36 million unique readers in September, which is more than seven times what it got the month before that. The company’s page views also jumped to almost 275 million from just 43 million.

The news network said that traffic from Apple’s news service had been growing fairly steadily for most of the year, but not at anything like the rate it did from August to September.

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Wellen said that the ability to show users real-time notifications for breaking news has been part of that growth. CNN sent those alerts to just 188,000 users after initially, but by last month it was sending out more than 3.7 million of them.

Bloomberg also says its traffic from Apple News has increased substantially since the most recent updates to the service, according to Scott Havens, the company’s head of digital.

Havens said that the number of unique visitors to the financial service’s content jumped more than 500% in October, in part because Apple started including more of Bloomberg’s articles in the “Top Stories” section of the feature—which is edited by human beings rather than just algorithms.

It isn’t just larger news outlets that are seeing an increase in traffic, apparently. The publisher of said it has seen a number of significant traffic spikes coming from Apple News.

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Apple also seems to be devoting more time and resources to improving its news service in an attempt to get more publishers on board. In addition to support for sending users notifications, publishers who participate now can integrate subscriptions and pay walls.

And Apple appears to be interested in boosting the financial returns that publishers get as well. A number of reports on Monday said that it has cut a deal with NBCUniversal (a unit of Comcast (CMCSA)) to sell advertising inside Apple’s news service.

Under the terms of the deal, publishers can still sell their own ads, and keep 100% of the proceeds from whatever ads they sell. Or they can let NBCUniversal sell some, in which case the publisher gets 70%.

For many publishers, losing control over the distribution of their product as digital networks have gained ascendancy has meant trying to cut deals with huge services like Facebook and Google. From the sounds of it, Apple is now in a better place to provide some competition on that front.

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