The Ultimate Guide: How Publishers Can Join the Apple News App

Apple has recently announced that its news-stand app, Apple News, will be open to all publishers. What does this mean for the display ad market, and how does this affect you? We checked and came back with (almost) all the answers.

Mobile monetization has been a challenge for all publishers. And you should know. Currently, about a third of web traffic is coming from mobile, and the numbers just keep tipping in favor of the tiny devices in our pockets.

With so little space on the screen and such a huge chance of accidental taps? It’s just hard to crack the monetization formula that works. Especially if you consider the myriad of choices for mobile publishing, from branded magazine apps to responsive websites.

In a mobile world, Apple has a unique advantage — a captive audience of iOS device users. And these users have been characterized as better spenders than other smartphone platform users. This appeals to many advertisers.

Apple has been working hard on making iAd a significant source of income for the company. Part of their strategy is, apparently, trying very hard to do to the online news publishing industry what they did to the music industry with iTunes.

Steps to monetizing as an Apple News Publisher

  1. Enroll in the Apple developers program
  2. Enable iTunes content with your Developer ID
  3. Sign up
  4. Upload logo
  5. Choose how to publish: RSS or Apple News
  6. Choose article creation method
  7. Submit sample content
  8. Publish articles
  9. Monetize with Apple iAd

What is Apple News?

If you publish content that can be considered news, you should already be familiar with Google News. We’ve written an extensive guide to Google News and how to get on it, and why you really should. If you can, that is.

In fall 2015, Apple introduced its News app as part of iOS 9. It rolled out to most iPhone and iPad users and according to Apple, about 40 million of them use it.

This publishing platform aims to bring personalized news and content to iOS users while combining the source brand look with the sleek Apple design. Obviously, the monetization engine is Apple’s own iAd, so far utilized mostly by iOS app developers for app monetization.

The news about Apple News

Until very recently, only select premium publishers (like CNN, Conde Nast and ESPN) partnered with Apple to syndicate content to the News app and monetize it through iAd. Smaller publishers and bloggers could squeeze their RSS in through the Apple News API.

But not anymore, Apple quietly ended the beta period and opened the gates for all publishers. So now the news publisher platform in the Apple News format is open to everyone. Yes, even you, and it’s free to join.

Obviously, there is a publisher approval process, it’s not a free-for-all. There are also technical adjustments and time to invest in formatting content to comply with Apple News demands. Also, if you currently have a mobile traffic monetization scheme with direct deals you want to incorporate — things just get more complicated. But don’t worry, we’ll cover all that below.

So before we tell you how to get your posts on that feed and in front of 80 million eyes (that’s 40 million pairs, in case you were wondering), let’s talk about whether you should even bother to invest the time and effort.

The Good, The Bad and the Potential

The tech giants have been trying to get their piece of the content monetization cake, while keeping content as close to the vest as possible to maintain control. Google did it with YouTube, Facebook recently introduced Instant Articles, and Amazon carried its power in the book market into the digital world with eBooks and self-publishing. So it’s no wonder Apple wants to get on the wagon and keep content close to the corporate brand chest like everyone else on the field.

If your eyes start to glisten at the thought of 40,000,000 potential viewers, put on some sunglasses. Some of the premium publishers who were the early adopters of Apple’s News format and platform weren’t shy about their disappointment from the system. WSJ complained that the analytics platform wasn’t informative enough and Time Inc. is just overall underwhelmed with performance. Some publishers also reported poor fill rates with iAd on News.

Although the folks at Cupertino promise to fix things, and have also launched a new analytics dashboard for publishers, it’s clear that it’ll take quite a bit of audience education to get people to opt for the Apple News app over Flipboard, Facebook Instant Articles, and other content delivery platforms.

Of course, we can’t forget the branded publisher apps many of us invested a lot in developing and marketing. This is one of the reasons Apple is now investing heavily in an advertising campaign promoting the app to iOS users — to try and get more users to actually use this built-in app.

(Use Apple News or Ronda Rousey will punch you!)

So the question you’re asking yourself is: Should I be early to the Apple News train and hop on now? The answer to this question depends heavily on your mobile publishing strategy, your content niche and your audiences’ devices of choice.

For example, if your mobile traffic is redirected to a branded app where you have an effective monetization scheme? You probably don’t need to be on Apple’s feed at this point. On the other hand, if your analytics reports show a lot of traffic from iOS devices, or you’ve seen good performance using the API to appear on the feed since November? It’s a no-brainer — Apple News can be a source of revenue for you.

It’s important to note that if your content isn’t in English — you’re out of luck. Unlike Google, Apple is all about the English speaking citizens of the world, at least right now.

Getting on the Apple News Feed — what you need to do and have

To get started, you’ll need an Apple ID to sign up for the News Publisher web app. Now, if you also want to monetize your content (and you do), you’ll need to enable iTunes connect with your developer ID.

Don’t have a developer ID? — you should enroll in the developers program to get one. The developer program membership will cost you $99 a year, but you can’t monetize without it. Now just sell your soul to Apple (okay, not really) by signing the Apple News Content Agreement and provide your tax and banking information on iTunes Connect.

There are currently two ways to create Apple News format articles: the News Publisher web app and CMS plug-ins. If you want to create the JSON feed manually, Apple offers an extensive reference to it. But odds are, you’ll want to choose one of the CMS plugins supported by Apple, like Alley Interactive’s “Publish to Apple News” for WordPress.

The next step is setting up advertising. According to Apple, “Ads automatically appear between articles in your channel, regardless of whether you create those articles in News Publisher or with your content management system (CMS). If you want ads to appear within your articles, you must add advertisement components to your articles. Currently, advertisement components can be added only to Apple News Format articles delivered from a CMS.”

You can add your own advertisers and get 100% of the earnings, or let iAd fill your inventory automatically (for which you get 70% of the CPC). Another cool thing is that Apple pays publishers 50% of the revenues from ads between articles in the feed. Pretty cool, right?

Apple News for Publishers — A Step by Step Guide

1. Sign Up

2. Upload a Logo

Logo should be as follows:

General

  • The logo can include text only (no images).
  • The file type must be PNG.
  • The logo must be horizontal and on one line only — no stacked text.
  • The area around the text must be cropped or trimmed to remove extra space (padding is applied automatically).

Color and transparency

  • Use full color.
  • Use a transparent background (no fill) — a mask is applied in some views.
  • Text positioned against color should be transparent.
  • Outlined text should be transparent (no color fill).

Size

  • Height: 256 pixels minimum
  • Width: 256 pixels minimum; 2560 pixels maximum (some scaling occurs in logos with the maximum width)
  • Aspect ratio: 10:1 maximum
  • File size: 2 MB maximum

Restrictions

Don’t include any of the following elements in your logo:

  • Copyright or trademark symbols
  • Photos
  • Promotional text or URLs
  • White text against transparency

Examples of implementing the logo specifications

Scale your logo to fit the required height, if necessary.

Scale your logo to fit the recommended width, if necessary.

Place a logo mark next to the text, not above or below it.

Characters in a logo mark should be transparent.

Abbreviate or otherwise shorten long logo text if possible.

What to avoid

Avoid using a solid background color. In some views, a mask is applied to your logo, and a solid background doesn’t produce good results.

Avoid wide logos, which can be difficult to read when scaled down.

Avoid stacked logos, which can be difficult to read when scaled down.

Avoid using a color fill in characters or shapes within logo marks. Text and shapes positioned against other elements or colors should be transparent.

Avoid color fills in outlined text. A filled outline won’t produce good results when a mask is applied. Outlined text should be transparent.

Choose a method for creating articles. After you receive approval, sign in to News Publisher and choose how you want to create content. Click Create Article to create an article right in News Publisher, or click Get API Key to use the Apple News application programming interface (API) to deliver content from your CMS.

3. Choose how to publish

You can choose between an RSS feed and publishing the Apple way. This really depends on your goals. If you just want to get some traffic or some links for SEO or just don’t want Apple messing with your content layout then opt for the RSS feed. But if you’re going to be in cahoots with Apple might as well let them do what they do best, which is design.

4. After approval

Choose a method for creating articles. After you receive approval, sign in to News Publisher and choose how you want to create content. Click Create Article to create an article right in News Publisher, or click Get API Key to use the Apple News application programming interface (API) to deliver content from your CMS.

5. Submit sample content

Choose a few articles that represent your content, then submit them to Apple for approval.

There are two ways to submit content:

  1. Through a CMS, as mentioned above. This is done through a plugin or custom code that connects Apple News to your CMS. plugins are available for Wordpress, Drupal, and other platforms. Apple wrote a full guide on how to connect your CMS with Apple News.
  2. Creating an article directly in News Publisher. Apple created a full guide on that as well, and you can find it here.

6. Publish articles

After you’ve jumped over the first hurdle and Apple approves the submitted articles, you can publish other articles to News without further approval. Articles go live shortly after you publish them.

7. Start Monetizing

You can run without advertising but you can also start monetizing with App iAd.

[Tweet “Apple News allows you to choose between RSS and Apple News Format”]

Betting on the Apple tree

I don’t need to tell you that Apple News can’t be your only mobile monetization tool. It can be one of them, if Apple manage to push it to their (mostly) obedient users. With so much competition in mobile content delivery, Apple News will have to fight hard to attract publishers and readers alike. Will it work? Will Apple revolutionize mobile content consumption? We’re sceptical, but if you’re seeing good performance with iAd on Apple News? We’ll be happy to hear about it.

[rad_minimal]ed at www.adngin.com on March 24, 2016.

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