An 'Apple News for WordPress plugin' alternative with tools to maximise growth

October 1, 2023

If you’re a news organisation that uses WordPress (or WordPress VIP) to publish your content, you may have looked into using the WordPress ‘Publish to Apple News’ plugin. It’s a free plugin that aims to convert website articles into a format that’s compatible with Apple News

However, as Apple News is a complex platform to integrate with, a free plugin for it comes with some significant drawbacks. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution, we have outlined an alternative to the ‘Publish to Apple News’ plugin.

What does the Apple News WordPress plugin do? And what doesn’t it do?

Apple News displays articles ‘natively’ within the app – this means all website articles need to be recreated in a format known as Apple News Format. The WordPress ‘Publish to Apple News’ plugin converts website articles into this format and delivers them to Apple News when a WordPress user publishes an article.

However, the WordPress plugin only solves one part of the equation; delivery to Apple News. It doesn't include tools to maximise growth, offer branded article pages, allow readers to visit a publisher’s website or offer support for what is quite an extensive (and sometimes confusing) platform.

How are articles delivered with the WordPress plugin?

After your developers have installed the free plugin they'll need to set about configuring it within the CMS. Configuration is relatively straightforward but you'll need to track down the publishing credentials for your Apple News channel to add into the CMS. If you're unsure on where to find this we recommend reaching out to your technical contact at Apple.

Once configurations are made, a new button will appear on posts, and when clicked a story will be delivered to Apple News.

A free plugin that doesn’t include support has to be as simple as possible, and that means the output from the ‘Publish to Apple News’ plugin is quite basic. Your Apple News articles won’t carry a similar look and feel to your WordPress website, and many of the embeds and tools you use in articles won’t be supported in Apple News.

Publish to Apple News plugin on WordPress

Why does that matter? Well, carrying your branding into Apple News is important to ensure readers understand they are interacting with your content. And if the embeds you use are unsupported, Apple will reject your articles – it’s important to Apple that articles are ‘contextually correct’ so articles with errors are removed from the platform.

What risks does using the WordPress plugin for Apple News bring?
  • Inconsistent reader experience due to inability to convert article formats and templates accurately
  • Disjointed reader experience as branding elements in your article designs aren’t converted by the plugin
  • Bespoke video players are unsupported which causes articles to be rejected by Apple and will stop you from generating advertising revenue from videos
  • Deleted social media embeds receive no fallback mechanism which causes the article to be rejected by Apple
  • Interactive multimedia components (quiz embeds, podcast embeds, audio articles etc) are unsupported so articles aren’t performing to their full potential
  • Visual multimedia components (match stats embeds, data tables etc) are unsupported which could create contextual issues in the copy
  • No engagement, retention or conversion tools which help drive audience growth and engagement
  • No automated notifications for delivery issues
  • Apple News articles aren’t automatically updated when changes are made to your website articles

Does the plugin support multiple post types?

Unfortunately not. The plugin works to deliver all content from your main post type.

Does the plugin work with article builders?

Sadly not. As a free plugin, it needs to work as simply as possible without requiring support from customers. And with a huge number of article builders available for WordPress, supporting them is out of the scope of the plugin.

Can my developers ‘hack it’ to work?

One solution to plugins with limited functionality is to rewrite the code to try and get it to work a specific way. However, this requires assigning a developer to rebuild and test the integration. This means the developer will need to acquire knowledge of the underlying code behind Apple News Format and how to manipulate it to meet your needs. They then need to continually maintain the plugin to ensure it works when updates are made to existing articles or article templates on your website.

This approach is slow and costly. and would negate the benefits of using a free plugin in the first place. 

Why delivery to Apple News is only one small part of the equation

Simply delivering articles to Apple News isn’t the key to success. Yes, there’s a large audience that can be reached on the platform. But without  reader engagement tools on your Apple News articles, that audience will likely remain casual visitors who never take that next crucial step in their relationship with you.

To do that, you need to ensure new readers follow your publication on Apple News. They then need to be nurtured into loyal followers who will strengthen your signal in the algorithm. And above all that, those readers need to be directed to your owned environments where first-party data can be captured. Discovery without a next step is a fruitless endeavour.

Unsurprisingly, a plugin is not comprehensive enough to fulfil the needs of leading publishers who are looking to deliver stories to Apple News and drive growth. Not only does it have delivery and integration issues, but it completely lacks any features that help publishers thrive on the news app. In this case, why even spend resources publishing to Apple News? So what’s the alternative? 

What’s the alternative to a WordPress plugin for Apple News?

For ambitious publishers with specific commercial goals, a bespoke Apple News integration is the only way forward. If you’re looking for growth, you need to leverage the power of the news app to its full extent. FlatPlan has years of experience doing just that for leading publications.

We begin building a bespoke Apple News integration for your publication. This is done with minimal input required from your team – we only need input for brief building and approvals. Despite that, our design team will build a channel that perfectly replicates your article designs on your website. This includes the use of multiple branded fonts, design motifs on the page, branded colourways as well as reader engagement components like Read More widgets and all kinds of multimedia embeds.

Formula 1's Apple News channel
FlatPlan ensures all branding elements from your website are brought across to your Apple News channel.

This helps your articles stand out when surfaced alongside other leading publications on Apple News. Not only will this drive more clicks to your articles, but it will also build brand familiarity so that readers can discover your publication outside of Apple News too. 

If there are any technical issues with these elements, we build 'fallbacks' for them so that articles always get accepted by Apple and we also have an automatic alert system that notifies your team as well as ours. More often than not, our support team fix these issues before your team and readers even realise.

We pride ourselves on our reliable, stable integration. That’s because we know how much work goes into producing original content, and we want to ensure you can maximise its value on Apple News. Our team’s knowledge of the Apple News code is what gives us full control. This expertise has been acquired over many years and it means we can do just about anything a publisher requests for their Apple News integration. 

But getting your Apple News channel looking just right and making the integration stable is only the first part of the process. Once you’re on the app, it’s all about driving growth. 

This starts with optimising the backend of your articles. This means the inclusion of essential metadata, keyword tags and alt text so that the Apple News algorithm knows what your stories are about and who should be reading them. This is also why we recommend delivering all of your articles to Apple News so that the algorithm has more data to work with. Such implementations will maximise the reach of your channel.

Once this is in place, it’s time to start nurturing those new readers into loyal followers. One key FlatPlan does this for publishers is with the use of our inline Follow CTA. This highly visible button sits within the body of the article and asks readers to Follow you – an action that’s normally hidden away in a menu. Not only does this drive reader retention but it also sends a strong signal to the Apple News algorithm to surface your content more regularly.

Celtic Football Club's engaging inline Follow button on their Apple News channel
Inline Follow CTAs help nurture newly reached readers into loyal followers. But the action also sends a strong signal to the Apple News algorithm to surface more of your content.

Another way FlatPlan helps publishers is with the use of recirculation links and Read More widgets. Recirculation links can simply be brought across from your website articles to your Apple News articles. Read More widgets or Trending Articles widgets are recreated by the FlatPlan team so that they work properly on your channel. This means reader engagement strategies developed by your team are also being utilised in your Apple News integration. 

Once reader loyalty has been achieved, it’s time to help them take that next step in their relationship with you. For many publishers, this often means turning them into newsletter subscribers or paid subscribers but depending on your commercial goals, it can also mean encouraging them to download your app or listen to your podcasts. FlatPlan facilitates this in several ways.

Firstly, we can create in-article CTAs that can highlight other content streams. Publishers have used these to drive app downloads, newsletter subscriptions or clickthroughs back to owned environments. These can sit anywhere within your articles and have high viewability so they’re rarely missed when readers are engaging with your content.

UEFA's Apple News channel designed by FlatPlan
FlatPlan offers publishers a wide range of in-article CTAs to drive conversions such as app downloads, newsletter subscriptions and website registrations.

Another way we can help drive first-party data capture is with the real estate available in the branded footer. Again, these can point anywhere. The difference here is that there’s space to add more messaging to explain why somebody should subscribe or follow you more closely. 

Ongoing support for your Apple News integration

So we’ve talked about how the WordPress plugin for Apple News mainly focuses on integration and even then, it’s limited in scope. We’ve also mentioned how your Apple News channels should be equipped with a whole range of reader engagement mechanisms (much like your website) to drive success. But there’s also the question of ongoing support. 

What if you decide to refresh the look of your article pages? Or do a complete rebrand? What if you join a new social media platform and want to start embedding posts from it? What if you’ve created a new interactive component for your articles like quiz embeds, audio articles or maps?

The WordPress plugin for Apple News is unable to support any of this, which means previous development time is required to get them working on your channel or you risk losing trust and views. 

That’s why FlatPlan provides complete Apple News support for publishers. Even when HELLO! changed technology stack, we worked side-by-side with their team and helped them relaunch their newly designed Apple News channel at the same time as their newly designed website.

We think Apple News should be seen as an extension of your website that helps pull in new traffic that was previously unreachable. That’s why integration with Apple News isn’t something you just set up and forget about. It requires nurturing and support which is something we continue to do for publishers long after we completed the initial integration. 

If this is something your media organisation could benefit from, speak to your expert team to discover how Apple News can help you grow.

Next steps...

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.

  1. Are you an existing Apple News publisher?
    Our expert team can audit your existing Apple News channel to ensure your integration is stable, determine how optimised your channel is, and provide recommendations that will help you make the most of your setup. Book a free audit now.
  2. Looking to integrate Apple News with your media business?
    Leading publishers use FlatPlan to grow their media business by leveraging the power of Apple News. With help from reader engagement tools, we help publishers reach new readers, nurture them into loyal followers and then funnel them to first-party data strategies on owned properties. Book a free consultation now.
  3. Still learning about Apple News?
    We're always providing insider knowledge and expert advice to our network of publishers. If you want to access that same material, head over to our Article pages, download our free Guide to Apple News eBook or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
  4. Know someone who might find this article useful? Share it via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other social network you use.

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