Apple Spotlight Change Bumps Publishers

The rise of technology platforms with massive followings has offered publishers the tantalizing possibility of reaching millions of readers. But as more publishers are discovering, these partnerships with Facebook, Google and Apple may turn out to be devil’s bargains.

The bigger partners effectively control access to both their audiences and advertising options.

The latest pushback comes from Apple, which last month quietly began redirecting traffic from the popular news section of its “Spotlight” search screen to content hosted natively within the Apple News app, rather than on the publishers’ own sites, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.

Among the more obvious ramifications, that means fewer visitors for publishers to monetize directly.

The Apple News app offers many of the same incentives for publishing partners to participate – there’s that huge potential audience. But as the WSJ points out, the monetization terms are necessarily less generous, with Apple taking a 30% cut of all ad sales for articles viewed within Apple News.

Publishers also yield more control over the format and length of ads sold, potentially further reducing their ability to monetize traffic, as well as accepting limits on the types of personal data they can collect about users within the Apple News app.

On a related note, some publishers interviewed by WSJ complain that Apple only allows outside measurement of traffic in Apple News via online panels, rather than individual tracking, raising the possibility that publishers’ audiences are being undercounted.

As noted, the other big tech platforms have also been tweaking the way their users can access publishers’ content, occasionally to the detriment of the latter.

Earlier this summer, Facebook announced that it was reducing the amount of publisher content users see in their news feeds, with a new system prioritizing personal content over news and information; however it also offered a new feature allowing users to send each other links to Instant Articles in its popular Messenger function.

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