Think Big April 9, 2019

All The News About Apple News+

Have you heard? Apple released Apple News+ and part of the big announcement is that the subscription model newspaper and magazine service will be ad-free [INSERT RECORD SCRATCH SOUND]. Hold the iPhone, ad-free? Well, sort of. Let’s start from the beginning then dive into some specifics.

What’s Apple News+?

Apple News+ is a subscription model content aggregator that provides magazine and newspaper readers a chance to enjoy some of their favourites from their Apple device. The $12.99/m ($9.99 US) subscription gives readers full access to mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly as well as a lot of niche publications like Wine Enthusiast and Animal Tales (cuuuuute).

Not Exactly Ad-Free

Before you get out your CC, there are a few things you should know about the Apple News+ ad-free model. When Apple says there won’t be any ads it DOES NOT MEAN you won’t see ads within the context of the article you’re reading. Those banner ads on top, down the side, within and beneath the content will always remain. What is different is the targeting model – traditionally those ads you see in context of your free content are targeted to you specifically based on what you’ve searched and how you browse.

Did Apple Just Lie To Us?

Well, it depends on how you look at retargeting. With Apple News+, these ads won’t be targeted at all – instead they will be served solely on the fact that someone is using the app. This means a couple of different things. First, readers can’t be re-targeted in the traditional sense. So, the bots don’t know if you’ve seen an ad negating things like sequential messaging. Second, readers can only be tracked as a reader on Apple News+ and nothing more. This means the data being collected essentially stops once the bots identify that you’re using the app.

The Price of Exposure

Going all the way back to the printed newspaper, ads are an essential part of the publication economy. Brands pay publications to get their message out there to readers so the more readers a publication has, the more they can charge brands for ads. Apple News+ isn’t actually a publication, they are a platform, but the agreement they’ve made with publications is to split all the ad revenue 50/50. You can look at this a couple different ways. On one hand, Apple is essentially charging publications a significant amount to be a middle person. On the other hand, Apple News+ already has upwards to 200,000 subscribers which is a lot of exposure for small publications.

The Future of Subscription-Based Content

Subscription-based content providers like Netflix, Spotify and Audible are becoming normal, but none of them had an ad model quite like Apple News+. Spotify still sells ads on its free service, but unlike Apple News+, subscribers are never served ads. As consumers, there’s a bit of an unspoken rule that when you pay for content, it is expected to be a completely ad-free experience. But from a publication’s perspective, the ability to not sell ads and get them to readers is really hurting the industry.


Depending on how you look at Apple News+, they are either helping save the publication industry by providing much needed exposure, or they are fleecing them out of revenue. Either way, the disruption is real.

These words are by Scott Lew & Marguerite Gaylie

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