March 7, 2017 | blog | by Alexian Chiavegato

How Apple’s Open Ears Helped CNN Increase Unique Readership by 700 Percent in Just One Month

The Revamp Publishers Can Thank for Greater Engagement and Monetization

Apple’s News app was launched as a way for iPhone and iPad users to browse all of their favorite publications in one place. But from the start the user experience was slow and disjointed, and publishers found the app sorely lacking in features they needed, like notifications and subscriptions. Apple listened, and today the app has been updated to meet users’ needs and serve as a formidable traffic driver for publications and a great place to attract new users.

Apple News has unveiled a sleek new user experience that reflects the current look and feel of iOS 10 as a whole. The app is now faster and easier to follow, and improves the way each day’s top stories are curated by, using human editors instead of an algorithm. It also gives users the ability to include the app as a widget, and get weather forecasts from within the app. And another key update has proved useful for both users and publishers—the addition of notifications from a user’s favorite publications.

Notifications are a major advantage for outlets looking to get their content in front of consumers, and the News app now does a great job of that. In fact, CNN managed to push out 188,000 notifications on September 13, 2016, day one of the rollout. On October 30 of the same year, that number had skyrocketed to 3.7 million users in only a few weeks. What’s more, CNN’s unique readers grew from 5 million to 36.5 million in the span of a month, with its page views increasing from 43 million to 274 million.

It’s not just CNN, either. Last year, Bloomberg News saw a 400 percent increase in unique visitors to its content on the app. While some of these gains can be attributed to the United States presidential election and its impact on the news cycle, these are certainly significant numbers for those publishers.

So notifications and other needed updates can be thanked for boosting unique visitors and pageviews, but what about monetization? In November, Apple announced that NBC Universal would begin handling the ad business for Apple. One of the most effective aspects of the deal is that publishers supplying their own advertisements get to keep 100 percent of the revenue. Trepidation over giving up control of content has been another source of publishers’ complaints about new content distribution platforms. Apple heard those concerns, too, and has given more control back to the publishers as a result.

These changes happened because the Cupertino-based tech giant opened its ears and listened to publishers as they continue to push their content to mobile-first platforms like Apple News, Google AMP, and Facebook Instant Articles. iPhone and iPad users are a valuable demographic for publishers, and Apple News provides yet another way for publishers to present content on a speedier, more streamlined platform.