Since debuting is Apple News app in September, Apple has inadvertently been undercounting the number of readers using the app. An internal glitch caused the company to miscalculate the number of people using the service.
Apple disclosed to the Wall Street Journal that it didn’t pick up on the glitch that led to the inaccurate reader tallies because it was focused on other aspects of the product. Apple didn’t explain how the problem occurred or when and how it might be fixed.
"We’re in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality," Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, told the Wall Street Journal in a statement yesterday. "We don’t know what the right number is." However, he noted that it was better to undercount traffic than overcount it.
The app has attracted dozens of publishing partners throughout the world that are hoping to take advantage of the increasing consumption of news via mobile devices. According to Apple, 40 million people have used its News app. Apple has not specified whether that number represents people who use the Apple News app on a regular basis or if it is the number of people who have accessed the app at any point.
Key for Ad Sales
Apple has teamed with more than 100 publications for Apple News, including The New York Times, CNN, ESPN, The Atlantic, Slate and The Daily Mail. Accurate readership counts are crucial for publishers because that’s what they generally base their advertising rates on.
Publishers who share content on Apple News are entitled to all of the proceeds from ads sold on their own, or 70 percent from ads sold via the Apple iAd service. Apple said that iAd has been so popular with publishers that Apple will be expanding the platform with a self-service ad-buying feature sometime in the next two months.
We reached out to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his thoughts on the news. He told us that Apple might have to mend some fences with publications that have been using the Apple News app.
"If the numbers are understated, the advertisers will be OK, but the content owners could be upset," said Enderle. "[There’s] not much they can do about it, though, so I expect it will blow over."
Happy So Far
Despite the mistake, Cue said Apple is happy with the performance of the News app so far, adding that the company has received mostly positive feedback from publishers. However, he said that Apple and its clients want more activity from the app. At least one publisher agreed. Julie Hansen, president of Business Insider, told the Wall Street Journal that she expected more from Apple News, saying that "traffic has been modest relative to the enormous install base of iOS devices."
After debuting in the United States in September, Apple News was made available in the U.K. and Australia in October with the launch of iOS 9.1.