Apple delays app tracking updates to iOS 14, giving brief reprieve to app publishers

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Apple is delaying a key change to its latest software update in iOS 14. Originally due to launch in October, the change will give users the option to individually opt-in or out of apps tracking them for advertising purposes.

The takeaways:
  • Apple announced at WWDC 2020 in June that it would require users to give explicit permission for each app before letting the app track them for advertising purposes. Given the large numbers of people expected to opt-out, this would make it much harder for advertisers to target ads and measure their effectiveness on iOS devices.
  • Facebook has led a fight against this change and has put out research suggesting that its ad network – which also runs ads on other publishers’ sites and apps – could see revenue drop by half if targeted advertising goes away
  • Apple has now released a statement saying this change won’t be released until “early next year.” “We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes,” they said.

In detail: Apps that use personalized advertising on iOS devices rely on a unique Apple code linked to each device called an IDFA (Identification for Advertisers). This helps track the performance of ads across different devices. Any apps using this for ads once iOS 14 rolls out will trigger the opt-in screen for users.

Apple says it will release more details to help developers prepare for the changes later this year.

So what? Publishers could be hard hit too, with many relying on tracking for app revenue.

  • DMGT, who publish the popular Daily Mail app, says that the revenue generated by the company’s iOS app users could drop by 75%. This could prompt the publisher to drop the app completely and drive users to read on the web instead.
  • The price advertisers are willing to pay to advertise within iPhone apps could decline by as much as 40% because of this change. Targeted ads usually command a much higher price than other types.

The flipside: This and other moves away from targeted ads will benefit publishers reliant on first-party data, and also dents the advantages Google and Facebook get from the massive amounts of data they collect about users outside their own platforms.

Unless… Apple is planning to push its own advantage and take on advertisers with its own private ecosystem. Some users of iOS 14 have noted that Apple is enabling personalized ads by default, using the information Apple itself has collected about you.

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