iOS 14 Update To Redirect Traffic to Apple News App

JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Apple’s iOS 14 and Mac OS Big Sur will automatically redirect traffic of users headed to publisher websites to Apple News+ instead.

The takeaways:
  • The redirecting feature will be activated only for users who are paying Apple News+ subscribers and for publishers who use the service.
  • Several publishers are concerned by the move as by redirecting users, publishers will miss out on potential ad revenues. In addition, these users’ sessions will not appear in any web analytics tools pushing publishers to be ever more reliant on first-party data.
  • An Apple spokesperson said “this change offers subscribers seamless access to the content that is part of their News+ subscription” in a statement to TechCrunch.

The discovery: The feature was discovered by Tony Haile, founder of Scroll, a subscription-based news service. In a thread on Twitter, Haile uploaded a video showing how iOS 14 was intercepting traffic and redirecting it to the Apple News app instead.

The consequences: Haile went on to identify two key points regarding competition and privacy:

  • “Any strategic rationale that Apple News+ represents a separate channel/audience is now gone”. For publishers with a presence on Apple News+, this may threaten their core subscription audiences.
  • “Apple has been touting privacy as its core attribute, particularly blocking cross-site tracking. In this case, not only is Apple engaging in cross-site tracking but is doing so as a default opt-in buried in the settings”.

Apple readies to enter the advertising ring: The discovery comes in the same period that some users of iOS 14 noted that Apple was enabling personalized ads by default. These moves signal a strong intent by Apple to take on advertisers.

  • iOS 14 also requires advertisers to gain user consent before tracking them. When users open an app, they are confronted with a pop-up stating that the “app would like permission to track you across apps and websites by other companies”. Clearly a message most users would not agree to.
  • By contrast, Apple’s language is far more favorable: “Apple advertising platform is designed to protect your privacy and give you control over how Apple uses your information”, while also hidden deep in the settings.

Time will tell if Apple is just testing the waters or readying to charge into the ad market.

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