The recent announcement of News—a new app coming to iOS 9—alongside Facebook Instant, places both Apple and Facebook in the center of the publishing world.
The two new services, one a new app the other an integration feature, allow publishers to seed control of the way their content is viewed, in return for a massive audience of potential viewers.
It is a large gambit for publishers, priding themselves on delivering content in the best way possible. Many big time publishers like The New York Times, The Guardian and the BBC have spent thousands creating a perfect home page and article design, with the two former publishers recently undergoing major design changes.
To lose that control over how the user views content is a risk, especially if the design of the homepage or content that fills the sidebar, header and footer keeps the user engaged on the website.
That said, services like Flipboard and RSS feeds have already been controlling content for quite some time. The difference now is Facebook and Apple have the ability to change the whole publishing industry, because of their combined user-base.
Facebook Instant plans to integrate articles into the News Feed, allowing the 1.3 billion Facebook users to read without clicking a link. This should save eight seconds on average, hopefully growing out the audience on the social network.
For publishers worried about revenue, Facebook plans to keep all adverts active, with 100 per cent of the revenue going to the publisher. For any publishers using Facebook’s own ad network, they will receive a 70 per cent revenue share.
The same goes for Apple’s News app, 100 per cent revenue on all adverts, apart from iAds where Apple takes a 70 per cent share. Neither Facebook or Apple has said if the news service will change the size or placement of the adverts though, meaning prominent adverts might be moved to secluded areas.
It is also still unknown how Facebook or Apple will handle subscriptions, like The Wall Street Journal and The Information. Will it allow users to pay for a subscription through Facebook’s own payments system or Apple Pay, or remove the ability to view this content.
Apple’s service is opt-out, meaning publishers need to write back to Apple stating they do not want to be part of the News service. Facebook Instant is opt-in and requires a touch of developer work to make all of the articles show up on the News Feed.
We don’t expect a massive transition from typical article viewing to Facebook and Apple, but given the fact iOS 9 will allow users to block ads, it is clearly the route most publishers will take to avoid AdBlock and low advertising rates.
Add Flipboard’s apparent sale to Twitter into the mix, and you have three prominent tech companies vying for change in the publishing industry.