Apple News+ in iOS 14, macOS Big Sur intercepts traffic from websites and opens content in Apple News app instead

Apple News+ has probably not taken off in the way that Apple originally hoped, and some publishers may not be happy with a feature discovered in iOS 14 and macOS 11 Big Sur.

According to a report from MacRumors, based on a video published on Twitter by Tony Haile, it turns out that Apple has made it so that Apple News+ will automatically redirect readers to the service, rather than to a publisher’s website, if the “feature” is turned on. The potential bad news here is that the feature is turned on by default, so users will need to go turn it off on their own if they don’t want to be automatically redirected to the Apple News app.

You can see the toggle in the image at the top of this article, and users can turn the setting off.

Apple is billing this as a feature of Apple News+, apparently assuming that subscribers to the service would rather read the news article related to the link they’ve clicked in the Apple News app directly, rather than on the publisher’s website. It’s worth noting that this is only available for Apple News+ subscribers, and this traffic redirection isn’t a “feature” for non-subscribers.

This is effectively drawing more readers to Apple News/Apple News+, and could reduce a publisher’s traffic in a noticeable way.

Here’s Haile’s tweet on the matter:

A couple of things…

First, this could be Apple’s way of ensuring that traffic picks up for the Apple News app and Apple News+ in general. The fact that the “feature” is turned on by default suggests this is how Apple wants it to work by default, rather than the other way around. Having it turned on by default means that a lot of Apple News+ subscribers are simply going to have their click redirected, and, sure, maybe that’s how they will prefer to read the news articles they are clicking on. This could work to Apple’s benefit, with the growing numbers a way to convince additional publishers to sign on for the premium subscription service.

Because that leads to the second detail, which is subscriber numbers. As it stands right now, there hasn’t been any direct confirmation from Apple how well (or poor) Apple News+ is doing as far as subscriber count is concerned. Back in June of this year The New York Times pulled out of its deal with Apple News+ and removed all of its published stories from the service entirely. At the time, Apple justified the move by saying the NYT only published “a few” stories on a semi-regular basis anyway.

However, it’s also not a secret that some publishers are unhappy with Apple News+, which we reported on back in June of last year. Apple News+ has reportedly led to very little revenue related to advertising.

Will it matter?

That’s hard to say, because this is already just an Apple News+ feature and if the subscriber count is low already, then it may not have a huge impact on anything at all. Just imagine if Apple had this “feature” turned on for Apple News in general — something that’s probably not possible, but easier to see how it could have a bigger impact for iOS and macOS news readers.

What do you think? Is Apple doing some shady stuff here by automatically redirecting traffic away from publisher’s websites, all so it can favor its own app? Or is this perfectly okay because it’s only an Apple News+ “feature”? Let us know what you think in the comments.