As news publishers keep looking for ways to earn money without alienating readers used to finding content online for free, they're increasingly partnering with large tech firms like Apple, Facebook and Google that have millions of regular, dedicated users. Under a new program reportedly being eyed by Apple, publishers might also be able to deliver paid, subscriber-only content as well as free content through that company's News app.
Apple's addition of paywall-protected content to its existing News format could give publishers another way to attract paid readers outside of their own home pages and print versions. It would also provide Apple with a way to stand apart from other tech companies developing publisher partnerships, according to an article from Reuters yesterday.
Launched in September with the release of iOS 9, Apple News provides a way for publishers to deliver "interactive and engaging" content to readers using iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices. Apple had originally touted the abilities of publishers to generate revenues through its iAd advertising platform, but the company recently announced it would be shutting down the iAd app network at the end of June.
Still-Evolving News Landscape
For now, it's unclear how Apple would ensure only paid subscribers could see certain types of content via its News app, the Reuters article reported. Citing "two sources familiar with the matter," the article also noted that some publisher-partners have voiced frustration about the dearth of reader data provided for Apple News.
Other tech companies that are moving farther into news publishing include Facebook, which introduced its Instant Articles platform last year, and Google, which in October previewed its "Accelerated Mobile Pages" project, expected to launch on Google Search in February.
The number of people in the U.S. who get their news from sources like Facebook and Twitter has grown dramatically since 2013; those figures now stand at 47 and 52 percent, respectively, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center.
Microsoft Jumps in with News Pro
Apple did not respond to our request for more information about its possible addition of a subscriber-only section to Apple News. However, it will need to find ways to remain competitive in the fast-changing world of news apps.
Earlier today, for example, Microsoft announced that its Garage idea factory released a new app called News Pro that lets users search a large number of publisher and blogger sites to find industry- or profession-specific news. Available on the Web, News Pro is also being offered as an app on Apple's iOS mobile operating system.
"Many small publishers -- thousands -- write news about small and narrow, thin segments, but they can be difficult to locate using traditional search methods," said Yumao Lu, a principal development manager whose team came up with the News Pro app. "Locating the most relevant and interesting articles for each individual user according to their interests -- as well as making sure the search results are for fresh news -- is really hard. We did lots of refactoring, improved the ranking logic and leveraged different types of storage to get the search results you see now in the highlights page."