The Stack Archive

Apple News app doesn’t currently know how many readers it has

Mon 11 Jan 2016

The Apple News app, which the company rolled out last year in an effort to distinguish its publishing efforts from more established rivals such as Google and emergent news forces such as Facebook’s Instant Articles, is unable to tell publishers how many people are reading their output – apparently because it was a secondary priority at the time of development.

Apple’s senior VP of Internet Software and Service Eddy Cue commented to the Wall Street Journal – itself a customer of Apple News – that the company had not noticed the misreporting because it had focused on ‘other areas’ of the product, stating: “We’re in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality.”

It is a surprising oversight, since accurate usage statistics represent the primary consideration for publishers making a major new investment into an established market-base such as Apple or Facebook – or Snapchat’s Discover. Ad campaigns are sold and priced through estimates of reach that are arrived at by detailed analysis of historical campaigns, and since many campaigns are country-specific, region-specific or even centred on a particular city, highly detailed and accurate information is required.

Apple recently acceded to publishers’ requests to be allowed to include third-party metrics technologies from the likes of comCast. Initially statistics were available by Apple’s regular mailing of overview-style statistics spreadsheets with little granularity, and a positively Luddite experience compared to industry-standard analytics packages provided free by Google and as a premium service by many third-party providers.

Ads within Apple News are handled via the company’s iAds system, and additionally Apple is expected to launch a new and easier-to-use ad platform this winter, competing with traditional platforms such as Google’s Doubleclick and Adtech Global.

The primary challenge facing Apple in the development of ad-fuelled news provision is to create a distinct technical ecosystem that can compete with highly developed and far more flexible competitors, yet will result in systems which have no application outside the Apple platform. For certain what publishers would have liked is the reach of the Apple user-base and brand cachet combined with the maturity of a more generic and advanced statistics platform like Google Analytics.

The teething troubles with Apple News analytics seem analogous with its initial attempt to take on Google Maps by the creation of Apple Maps in 2012 – a launch riven with controversy, as Apple had to reinvent a wheel which Google had been developing to first-class standards for years.

However the ‘glitch’ that has resulted inaccurate reporting of user information for Apple News indicates strange management policies in development, and the extension of the beta phase which the product is currently in.

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