April 17, 2019
Apple has rolled out two big changes to Apple News in the last few weeks, following their annual Keynote event in Cupertino. We felt it would be useful to give a quick rundown on these changes and how they might affect your Apple News strategy moving forward.
Open Apple News now and you’ll notice a number of changes to the look and feel. On iPhone, navigation is now reduced from five icons down to three — Today, Spotlight and Channels. Today replaces “For You” and Spotlight works as it did before, with Channels now offering a route into publications, topics of interest, saved stories and search. On iPad, navigation is now displayed as a slide-out drawer, with Channels listed in order of priority on-screen whenever navigation is expanded.
The app now displays a wider range of stories across a number of views. More space is given to topics and areas like Your Briefings, News Editors’ Picks and News Top Stories help guide users into content arranged by interest or browsing history.
Last week Apple launched Mojave, a new operating system for Mac computers. News is now bundled with this OS, appearing prominently on a walk-through of the new system, with an icon appearing in the dock at all times.
The macOS version is similar to News on iPad, making use of slide-out navigation and a window that opens at a similar view to iPad portrait. Users with linked Apple accounts will notice the app is linked to their devices, sharing publications, interests, saved links and viewing history. Notifications from publishers appear on desktop whenever the app is open.
Apple’s updates to look and feel are likely to aid users to find a wider range of content they’ll enjoy. The new setup means your stories have a higher likelihood of appearing within streams of content and topic groupings give more opportunity for stories to appear to those who don’t follow your publication. Apple’s algorithms and natural language processing handle how these appear, so aside from creating well-written, clearly defined content, you don’t need to do anything more here.
Channels give more opportunity to drive users to your channel, particularly on iPad and Mac where your publication name appears prominently. Apple recommends uploading an icon to drive brand recognition — if we look after your publication on News we’ve done this for you already.
More prominent channel links put more emphasis on ensuring the page users arrive to is as compelling as possible. Our advice is to ensure all stories appear on the first tab — removing sections completely may even make sense in many cases. Promoted Articles allow you to maximise impact by pushing your very best stories to the top of your channel. To promote an article, log in to News Publisher and hit the star icon. Promoted articles remove themselves from the top of the page after a few days.
If you’re a Preferred Partner, Apple News appearing on macOS gives a new opportunity to reach a ‘bored at work’ audience. We’d recommend testing notifications at times users at work are likely to be looking for a short distraction. Analytics on your main site will give clues to these timings but behaviour may differ on Apple News so trial a few times and dig into Apple’s analytics for data. It’s worth keeping an eye on competitors if they have notification functionality — users who arrive through notifications may, of course, dive into the article stream (and potentially see your content), so avoiding crossover could help increase impact.
As Apple News grows we’d suggest a focus on increasing publication follows. The user that clicks the heart icon is much more likely to see your stories and if you have notifications enabled they’ll receive this prompt. FlatPlan is the only system that allows Call to Actions for this in footers and we’re testing functionality to help increase follows which we’ll be messaging about soon, but it’s certainly worth thinking about how to drive follows from an editorial perspective as well.
One final thought from us — behaviour is likely to change as more people use the app across new devices. Apple News doesn’t sync with Google Analytics so make sure your team keep an eye on Apple’s analytics. You can set your team up to receive a daily, weekly or monthly analytics report by email — to do this head to Analytics > Recurring Report or just hit reply if you’d like us to help.
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.