Welcoming Celtic Football Club to Apple News: giving readers access to a historic football club

October 26, 2023

Football is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life. It sounds hopelessly romantic but for Celtic Football Club, that romanticism has a charitable story behind it. Celtic FC was founded after an 1887 initiative pushed by Brother Walfrid to feed the poor and hungry in Glasgow’s East End.

At the time, there was no official league in Scotland, but the passionate club played football anyway, such was the necessity of its mantra. Along with its altruistic goals came many football goals which propelled the club to the top of Scottish sport.

Over a century later, the historic club boasts one of the most decorated trophy cabinets in football history with many successful decades throughout, and a status that will live long into the future.

Thanks to the FlatPlan team, Apple News readers now have access to a wide variety of Celtic FC content that will give them an inside look at the goings-on within the club.

Check out Celtic Football Club's Apple News channel.

Why Celtic FC wanted to join Apple News

Apple News presents a unique opportunity for publishers and brands to reach over 145 million monthly active readers. With help from Apple’s innovative way of surfacing content – mixing the use of technology with handpicked stories by experienced news editors – Celtic FC have access to a highly engaged audience who trust the stories being presented to them on the app. 

Even if the subject matter is very niche, interested readers can find Celtic FC’s articles thanks to the myriad ways of finding stories on Apple News. The My Sports tab is the most reliable gateway for readers to find sporting content. Anyone following the Scottish Premiership or UEFA Champions League could easily stumble upon the Celtic FC channel.

Celtic FC Topic Group in Apple News
Readers can choose to follow their favourite teams and sports in Apple News.

More importantly, Apple News readers can choose their favourite clubs when setting up their account. So anyone who’s picked Celtic FC as their favourite club will now see content directly from the club in their feed. This bolsters discoverability for the club on top of all the usual methods of surfacing content such as the Today feed, Topic Groups or keyword searches.

However, discoverability is only the first step in finding success on Apple News. The next crucial steps involve nurturing new readers into loyal followers. Then leveraging that loyalty to drive clicks back to Celtic’s owned properties such as their newly relaunched podcast and club newsletter.

This is the power of Apple News. Yes, there’s a large and engaged audience to be reached. But then, FlatPlan enables publishers and brands with tools to turn that audience into valuable traffic referrals, which in turn can be driven towards first-party data capture. Here’s how.

How FlatPlan built Celtic FC’s Apple News channel

To ensure Celtic’s Apple News channel can reach the full breadth of readers available on the app, the branding on their pages must be instantly recognisable and the articles are optimised to strengthen their signal in the algorithm. 

This means keyword tags and metadata are pulled into all articles to ensure the Apple News algorithm knows what each article is about, and can therefore surface the content appropriately to maximise clickthroughs. Meanwhile, the iconic Celtic green is used throughout their article designs so that fans instantly know that they’re in the right place. 

Once readers land on the page, engagement is bolstered by a design choice that’s rarely seen in Apple News – overlaying the headline over the lead image. This use of layering is utilised throughout the Celtic FC website so the FlatPlan designers wanted to use this on their Apple News channel too. A gradient overlay between the headline and image matches the website while ensuring readability is optimised.

Furthermore, different lead images are used for their articles depending on the viewport. This ensures all Apple News readers, no matter if they’re reading on desktop, tablet or mobile will get an optimised experience when consuming Celtic FC stories.

Celtic FC's Apple News channel
Lead images have been optimised for different viewports so that readers get an engaging experience on any device.

Once readers land on a Celtic FC story on Apple News and are engaged, they will be met with an inline Follow button developed specially for FlatPlan publishers. The Follow mechanic on Apple News is often hidden away in a menu in the corner of the app. By making this action more prominent for FlatPlan publishers, reader retention can be garnered more easily. To ensure readers don't miss this essential call-to-action, an engaging background is used to give it more visual interest.

The impact of the inline Follow button makes it a must-have for all brands and publishers. Existing Apple News publishers who join FlatPlan see a 30-40% increase in new followers within the first three months – largely thanks to inline Follow buttons.

Inline Follow CTA on Celtic FC's Apple News channel
Inline Follow CTAs engage readers while they are reading your content to drive retention. Every new follow provides a significant boost in the strength of your algorithm signal.

Another way to engage with new readers on Apple News is to make them aware of other content streams – podcasts are a popular choice at the moment. But podcasts are often hosted in a variety of places and Apple News only supports Apple Podcasts to be embedded. 

Now, thanks to a new technology developed by the FlatPlan team, Spotify Podcast embeds can be converted to show the Apple Podcasts equivalent within the article. This embodies that kind of optimisation the FlatPlan team are always looking for when building Apple News channels so that publishers can maximise reach and engagement with readers.

Podcast embed in Celtic Football Club's Apple News channel
With support from the FlatPlan team, Spotify Podcast embeds on your website can now be converted to show the Apple Podcast equivalent on your Apple News channel.

Other graphics embeds that were created for Celtic FC are quiz embeds and match stats embeds. Such embeds are great engagement tools for readers who want something more interactive or more visual. However, making such components work properly in Apple News can be a challenge.

With their expert knowledge of the Apple News code, the FlatPlan team were able to recreate these elements to display accurately on the app. This ensures reader engagement ideas the team at Celtic FC had for their website can also be utilised on their Apple News channel.

Quiz and match stats embed on Apple News
Quiz and match stats embeds from Celtic Football Club's website have been accurately replicated in their Apple News channel by the FlatPlan team.

Lastly, Celtic FC’s Apple News channel is finished off with a branded footer that reinforces the club ethos and provides readers with a final opportunity to engage more directly with the historic club. First-party data capture has become an essential strategy to forge closer relationships with readers, so Celtic end their articles by asking readers to subscribe to their mailing list for exclusive access to Celtic FC content.

Celtic Football Club's branded footer in Apple News
Branded footers help reinforce key messaging while providing real estate for essential CTAs.

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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