November 5, 2023
Before I founded FlatPlan I ran a digital agency that worked with publishers. We would assist in-house development teams or, often with smaller publishers, would act as the sole development team.
When Apple News launched in 2015 we started getting requests from publishers.
The bigger publishers would get in touch with one specific problem. “Apple is launching a news platform and we’d love to join but we just don’t have the internal resource to handle the design and build”.
The smaller publishers would tend to cut to the chase. “How much is it going to cost us to deliver to Apple News?”
When we started to scope the first projects we realised a lot of work was involved - and just how many departments would need to be pulled into the project.
Apple News is a 'native' platform so every article published in a CMS needs to be re-created in a specific format and delivered to Apple, with another system built out to handle errors and messages from the Apple News platform. Each 'channel' needed to be designed and all article content would need to be checked for compatibility - an ongoing task if and when technology and social media embeds evolved.
The process would bring together editorial, design, product management, project management, sales, engineering, QA and audience development. Engineers would need to get to grips with a new code format, called Apple News Format, and everyone involved would need to understand how best to make this large platform work.
The sheer complexity of this task meant the cost of joining the platform was high, and from speaking to publishers that did have big enough teams to at least attempt to build something in-house we found two common outcomes:
We realised a different approach was needed, and that’s when we launched FlatPlan.
FlatPlan is a no-code solution to Apple News.
Our software replaces weeks of development, design, QA and project management work, and our expert team help editorial, audience and sales teams understand the opportunities available to publishers on Apple News.
Instead of a timeline that includes weeks of planning, engineering, design and QA, we pick up almost everything, reducing onboarding to a simply three-step process.
All we need to get started is a content source (this could be an RSS feed, an API feed or simply a web page where new stories appear, like your homepage) plus a few assets like logos and fonts. Our design team carefully replicates your website design in Apple News Format, our engineers build your 'channel' and our system ensures publishers need never run QA processes to meet Apple's strict quality controls.
FlatPlan wasn't developed just to make onboarding easier for publishers. As Apple News matured we started to see how publishers could drive growth within the platform.
Put simply, success on Apple News hinges on three things - reaching the right readers, building loyalty from those readers and then routing them out of the platform and into your own environment.
Once you're live with FlatPlan we ensure your content reaches readers through personalisation, topic groupings and through optimised channels. When readers arrive to stories we use tools like our Follow mechanic to ensure they return regularly, and once we've helped you build a loyal audience we help direct them to mailing lists, websites or apps.
This ensures our customers get the best of both worlds - a brand new (and huge) route to new readers, revenue from ads and affiliate revenue drivers and first-party data capture. All without requiring weeks of web development or any ongoing technical support.
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.
Photo by Jamie Street