iOS 14 Keeps Apple News+ Subscribers Away From Publishers’ Websites

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The takeaways

  • Apple’s mobile operating system update, iOS 14 could allow users access to Apple News+ subscriber content without being redirected to the original publishers.
  • The discovery comes after the New York Times’ quit Apple News to, in part, retain readership on their own platform over third parties.
  • With reader revenue, retention and personalisation at the forefront of publishers’ goals this year, Apple’s new updates represent potential sources of conflict.

What happened?

Since the New York Times ended its partnership with Apple News last week, The Mac Observer has detected a mobile update that could potentially affect publishers.

The issue concerns Apple News+, a subscriber-based service in contrast to the free Apple News, and the forthcoming iOS 14. The OS update enables Apple News+ subscribers to open web links to partnering publications via the News app. This could allow users to access content that would otherwise be behind a browser paywall. 

Mac Observer writer Charlotte Henry said the development gives Apple “more control of how that content is presented.” She refers to the Times’ desire to send “readers back into our environments, where we control the presentation of our report.” Prior to withdrawing, the Times only shared limited articles to the free Apple News.

What could this mean?

The update is not the only sign of Apple’s tightening grip on its services. ‘Sign in With Apple,’ which requires users to log into their App Store purchases with Apple IDs, began enforcement on June 30th. This potentially means that all apps, including those of publishers, will be accessible by Apple IDs only.

Moreover, Apple has begun exerting pressure for mandatory in-app purchases in return for promotion in the App Store. A few weeks ago, the email app Hey was threatened with removal for not offering a paid in-app subscription. As Apple earns a large revenue percentage from such purchases, it is in their business interests to encourage the practice.

A report published in January by the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford found that 50% of publishers polled identified reader revenue as their main income stream for 2020. Combining this with a 52% preference for personalised front pages and other AI-driven consumer outreach suggests that the Times’ decision might not be so isolated – or unexpected.

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