Some publishers are surprised Apple News+ automatically redirects website traffic

Apple News Plus on iPhone Subscribe

Apple wants more people to use Apple News+, and, at the same time, it wants to make sure that customers who are already paying for the subscription service actually get to use it on a regular basis without having to open the app directly.

To get there, Apple has an idea: in iOS 14 and macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple will automatically redirect some links leading to news stories to the Apple News+ app. The new “feature” is turned on by default with iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, but users can disable it if they want. If it’s not disabled, clicking a link to a publisher’s content that is available in Apple News+ will automatically load Apple News+ and not the publisher’s website, which could have a major impact on that site’s traffic.

In a report from Ad Age, some publishers aren’t too fond of the idea, but, at least for now, are taking a “wait-and-see” approach before making any drastic decisions. However, according to the report, at least two publishers are at least considering pulling out of their agreement with Apple, which would ultimately pull content from Apple News+.

Per the report:

Two of the executives at the publishers told Ad Age they receive decent traffic through their deal with Apple, but are now questioning how it will impact their bottom line, as they each have greater monetization opportunities through their owned properties.

This isn’t completely unheard of, of course. Earlier this year the New York Times pulled out of the deal with Apple and removed its content from Apple News+. The reason? The subscription service was having too much of an impact on its own direct sales of subscriptions to its content, and the NYT does not want to give too much power to Apple in the news industry.

On the other side of that coin, though, is the Wall Street Journal. News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson has gone on the record and said that the publication, still one of the most influential news sources out there, will retain its deal with Apple and keep its content on Apple News+ because the subscription service introduces “new readers” to the available content.

Hearing about publishers being unhappy with Apple News+ is not new, either. We’ve been hearing these claims for quite some time, and it’s usually tied to a potential impact to traffic to a website or direct subscription numbers, or a hit to revenue due to Apple’s cut of the profits. Whatever the case, there have definitely been some publishers out there who haven’t been too keen on the idea of taking advantage of Apple News+.

And Apple’s decisions may be making that even more difficult for publishers, even if Apple’s own justification for it (giving a better experience to existing Apple News+ subscribers who basically expect to see content open in the app) doesn’t make it seem all that awful or nefarious on the surface.

But we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out. Apple is reportedly going to launch a new Apple One subscription option with various tiers, and one of those options could include Apple News+ bundled with other services like Apple Music and Apple Arcade. That could get more people to subscribe and use the service in the near future.