September 13, 2022
Apple's recent release of iOS 16 includes some changes to Apple News on iPhone. Here's a guide to those changes and how they could affect publishers who deliver content to Apple News.
The biggest change to Apple News in iOS 16 is the addition of Publication Favourites.
Upon loading Apple News we see the familiar Top Stories section with content chosen by Apple News editors.
A short scroll, however, reveals the Favourites section, pre-filled with six publications.
Apple hasn’t revealed how Favourites are pre-filled, but a less than scientific look at team members' iPhones suggests these are based on the number of articles visited per publication within a relatively short time frame.
This is a pretty good way for Apple to make initial suggestions. Loyal readers now have a prominent call to action to dive straight into titles they have recently enjoyed. Newer publishers, or those wishing to target less loyal readers won’t benefit from these defaults, however. More on that below.
A clickthrough leads to a publication homepage in Apple News. On many publications this will lead the reader to a listing of Latest Stories. The four most recent stories are all offered the same prominence - this is reduced to two stories for Apple News+ publications.
An increased visibility over Apple News homepages means it's well worth looking into the curation of your publication homepage. Apple offers the opportunity to promote stories and adding this into your team's workflow is likely to have a positive effect on traffic.
Apple News Publisher allows you to curate your channel homepage with a feature called Promoted Stories. Simply head to your News Publisher account and navigate to your default section - this is called Main by default but could have been renamed.
Hover over any of your stories in this listing and hit the Star icon. The story will now carry a gold star and will appear in a listing near the top of the page. You can do this with up to 6 stories per section. Articles are promoted for up to 48 hours.
These stories will now appear at the top of your channel homepage unless the user has read the story already (in which case it moves back to its natural position). Promoted Stories are also given more weight in recirculation areas in the app which gives more opportunity for your strongest stories to be read.
By clicking Manage Favourites a reader is given the chance to edit the publications that appear in this area of the app. A simple tap of the Star icon moves a publication into Favourites, to a maximum of 8 publications.
At present there is no way to prompt readers to Favourite a channel within channels or articles. If this changes FlatPlan will support this functionality.
A separate action is available in Apple News, however - Follows. FlatPlan include Follow mechanics within articles. Here's an example from IEEE Spectrum.
Following channels is a key action in Apple News. Any reader that clicks this button will be shown more content from the publication across Apple News.
When a reader hits Manage Favourites a publication they have followed will always appear prominently in the Favourites listing, so increasing Follows is key. Get in touch to activate this feature on your account, or enquire about moving your Apple News channel to FlatPlan.
Make sure your logo is optimised for legibility. If you have multiple versions of your logo choose a treatment that isn’t too detailed and make sure your Type Based Logo in News Publisher is cropped closely and correctly. It might be possible to change the background colour of the box it appears in – if you are already a FlatPlan client please reach out to our Support team to hear more about this.
iPhone owners can now choose widgets to be shown when their iPhone is locked. The Apple News widget is one of the most useful, carrying a key story from the platform. Clicking this story will open the story in Apple News.
The stories chosen for this slot are likely to be chosen manually by Apple News Editors, so will tend to be a mix of the stories typically found in Top Stories plus stories chosen specifically for this slot. Publications won't have control over this but may well see an even larger traffic boost from being featured in Top Stories. As always, well-written, compelling headlines will gather more clicks.
As well as adding publications to Favourites, readers can add topics to Favourites. This is likely to lead to an increase in traffic to topic areas of the app so it's key your stories are surfaced within the correct topics. FlatPlan optimises metadata and the Apple News algorithm scans the entirety of an article – the combination will ensure articles are surfaced correctly but good use of keywords within articles will help.
Apple News now allows readers to track their favourite sports teams and leagues.
Navigating to a team page opens a section dedicated to stories about the team, with fixtures and live scores shown prominently at key times.
For sports publishers we recommend setting up Sections dedicated to teams and leagues. FlatPlan is able to route stories from your site into these Sections and while this isn't the only way to appear in a Team section it will help the Apple News algorithm (as well as a reader visiting your channel). Ensuring metadata is surfaced correctly is important too, so get in touch with FlatPlan if you don't yet deliver with us.
In conclusion, the changes rolled out to iOS 16 are likely to increase traffic from channel homepages, topic homepages, sports sections and lock screens. Promoting your strongest stories can only help to increase visibility for compelling stories, and continuing to focus on driving Follows in Apple News will in turn lead to an increase in Favourites. We recommend auditing channel assets and ensuring stories are optimised for Apple's algorithm.
No matter what stage you're at in your discovery of Apple News, we'll help you get the information you need to make the right decision for your media business.