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A poll among seven large publishers who regularly contribute to Apple News revealed that all seven of them realise unusually low advertising sales around their articles. They also complain about the remarkably low reader numbers at the start.
In the Digiday poll, one publisher reported earning less than $1,000 a month, while another one mentioned monthly revenue of “low five-figures.”
Publishers are able to sell their own advertisements, but advertisers are reluctant to sign up. One reason is Apple’s “limited user targeting”, which makes it very hard for publishers to track readers in order to show them personalised ads.
If the publisher doesn’t directly sell an ad space, then Apple News (via NBCUniversal) sells it at a rate of between $3 and $4 per 1,000 clicks to other publishers. According to the firms polled, this is not an unreasonable rate – the problem is that too few ads are being displayed to make it worthwhile.
In industry jargon, the number of times that an ad is displayed is known as the “fill rate.” The gold standard here is 100% (i.e. the ad was displayed to a reader at every possible opportunity). According to the Digiday poll, one publisher experienced a fill rate of only 20%.
The company in question reportedly called this rate “atrociously low” and said that publishing on Google or Facebook Instant Articles was more profitable.
Some publishers reported better results, and all of them said that their overall ad views improved somewhat during the last year.
One existing publisher described the subscriptions they got via the current service as good and said: “We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the revenue from subscriptions.”
Apple is expected to launch a subscription service called “Apple News Magazines” fairly soon, but publishers are reportedly unhappy because it insists on such a high revenue share.