Apple is trying to pivot Apple News+ to audio. The company has requested permission from a number of publishers on its platform to produce audio versions of their stories. The Cupertino company itself will bear the production costs. It also intends to compensate publishers for their audio content in the same way as it does for their text content on the platform.
This means publishers will be paid 50% of the subscriber revenue depending on the amount of time people spend on listening to their content. A number of major publishers have pivoted to audio and started offering an audio form of their articles so Apple’s move is not entirely new here.
Many publishers, however, are skeptical of Apple’s plans as they don’t believe the Apple News+ audience will be interested in an audio version of their stories. Others are worried that if Apple starts pushing on audio content, it could change the metric of how publishers are getting paid because it takes longer to listen to a story than to read it. There’s also the issue that most of the articles on the platform submitted by publishers are written by freelance writers and their contracts do no allow third parties to reuse their stories without consent or additional compensation. Publishers so far have not been happy with the revenue that they have managed to generate from Apple News+ so far.
The source who envisioned an arms race described monetization on Apple News+ as “horrendous.” A source at a second publisher said that revenue from Apple News+ had not changed since the product launched last March, and said the only reason they remain involved is to protect against any dent to their print circulation numbers.
The demand for audio content has grown considerably over the last few years. Demand for podcasts has also grown which has led Spotify, Google, and Apple to launch products to cater to audiences. While audio version of Apple News+ content sounds good on paper, it is likely going to attract a limited number of audience. Then, there’s also the issue of Apple News+ being available on only a handful of countries. The service was announced back in March 2019 but so far, the paid subscription service has only been available in a few countries thereby greatly limiting its reach. Apple needs to bring Apple News+ to more countries as it will increase the userbase of the service and in turn help publishers generate more revenue.