So, Apple Newsstand is no more, will cease to be and is soon to join bleedin’ choir invisible…
Whilst most of the attention from Apple’s WWDC developers conference was devoted to the new Music service to be included in the upcoming iOS 9 release, another sweeping change was also afoot – the killing of Newsstand and the addition of the news aggregation app, er… News!
What will this mean for media owners, advertisers and the agencies that support the news and magazine app ecosystem?
Newsstand was once heralded as the saviour of traditional news publishing organisations, giving them a easily found specified place to ‘live’ amongst stiff competition in the new digital world order.
However, it soon transpired that as, any digital professional worth their salt knows, putting any number of ‘clicks’ between the user and their destination only ever serves to hide your content rather than eases its discovery. Combined with some strange classification of magazine content, publishers soon realised that this lack of discoverability was severely affecting subscription based commercial plans.
Removing the newsstand itself, and shifting existing Newsstand apps to the main iOS homescreen should help address the visibility issue. Some Publishers have already taken the initiative here such as The Guardian, making bespoke apps which do not live in the Newsstand.
Whats this Apple ’News’ app then?
From a user’s perspective this would seem to be a news feed aggregation app VERY similar to Flipboard’s offering: Select a few topics to follow from dynamic lists and let the app suggest more to add to the feed which also monitors the user’s interests over time.
For publishers this presents some interesting choices. Media owners can submit content using a proprietary RSS version – Apple News Format, which also promised some bespoke branding. The presentation also teased with an as yet un-released content editor which would add the ability to include animated embellishments to the copy and pre-formatted galleries. This editor isn’t in the public domain yet though.
Advertisers and publishers will also note that this app includes the ability to put ads in the stream of content from small banners to full interstitials using Apple’s own iAds platform which also undergoes something of a leap in evolution
The platform was mostly known for being responsible for serving those small images at the foot of an app screen – and don’t really represent a great user experience or ROI for clients.
Indeed the whole iAd proposition was somewhat of a humiliation for Apple – this is clearly illustrated by their initial entry fee for the platform which dropped from $1 Million right down to $10 in large steps over 3 years – recognising defeat as the advertising dollars went into specific apps such as Facebook and Pandora, rather than the iOS targeted network Apple was banking on – and nowhere near Google’s dominance of the mobile ad market.
This may well change. Slightly. Firstly with the potential of the News app offering in stream ads to an app on over 800 million home screens overnight. Additionally they have also beefed up the iAds producer software which offers creating ads from a variety of templates up to full page interstitial size using an array of widgets.
Apple also announced that the new iAds will offer 100% revenue to advertising on your own publisher channel – and retain 30% if using their platform to target other channels. Essentially aping the Facebook Instant articles model.
It remains to be seen whether existing users of Flipboard or Feedly would necessarily switch their habits but the sheer volume – as result of being pre-installed on all iOS9 updated devices – means publishers would be daft not to consider taking advantage of that scale of audience.
Neither should publishers fear the new app taking the traffic from their own bespoke iOS apps. The new platform doesn’t offer subscriptions or micropayments for content whereas the existing apps still will – from their new position on the homescreen. Instead it should be seen a traffic driver to their own apps. There’s also no need to abandon bespoke cross platform apps as this will only be on iOS devices and proprietary apps will always offer more brand control.
From Apple’s point of view this move also has one eye on Facebook’s Instant Articles – essentially to compete with social apps as a source of news.
Although how journalists and bloggers feel about having to opt-out of having their feeds included seems a bit of a harsh play.
Publishers should relish the relatively low bar to joining the syndicated content club – in terms of in house development – against the potential as a source of traffic and ad revenue.
Creative and media agencies should be considering the potential reach of the platform for their clients. Certainly our finding over the last 2 years have demonstrated that there is quite an appetite (tolerance!?) for well executed full page brand experiences via creative.
You can be sure we’ll be pushing the platform to the limit as is our want – we’ll report back with our findings in due course.
Please feel free to drop us a line to find out more from either a publisher, media or creative agency point of view or perhaps to violently agree / disagree with these first impressions.
by Matt White, Creative Director, Adnostic,
Follow me: @formvsfunction