Not much is publicly known about the team of editors behind Apple’s News app on iOS, and now The Information has a new report (paywalled) that includes new details on how it operates. According to the piece, Apple’s small editorial staff fields pitches from publications for features using Slack, and the result can be an influx of traffic for publishers.

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When news publishers have a big story these days, their editors jump on Slack and pitch it to an unlikely partner: Apple. The tech company has built a small but powerful news team that is making Apple a key distribution outlet for news publishers.

From the pitch received via a dedicated Slack channel, Apple’s editorial team of about a dozen staffers in the U.S. decides what story gets featured at the top of the app or to the left of the home screen.

We learned last summer that Apple News hired its first-ever editor-in-chief, Lauren Kern, presumably in charge of deciding what gets featured and what original content to produce.

Having a story featured in the built-in News app or on the News widget that comes pre-installed on iPhones and iPads is apparently a big driver of traffic for some publications:

That can yield a flood of traffic for publishers. Apple News has generated half of Vox.com’s daily traffic at times, according to a person familiar with Vox’s numbers. An executive at the website of a major TV network said Apple News has accounted for as much as 60% of traffic for some stories.

Readers tapping through the News app to the story doesn’t always guarantee they stick around and become daily readers, but Apple News does make it easy to favorite publications and follow more of their stories. The challenge, of course, is making that work financially as advertising in Apple News has not yet proved as successful as web ads in the browser:

“We’d love to build an audience there, but it doesn’t make sense until we can monetize,” said one media executive. “It’s similar to Facebook Instant Articles, but Apple seems to be a bit more committed to publications than Facebook.”

That challenge has caused a few major publishers to pull out of Apple News including The Guardian who called their initial partnership an ‘extensive trial’ last year.

Adding more content and additional features to the News app certainly won’t hurt growing the audience, and Apple has been making a steady effort at just that. Last week Apple introduced its first-ever Olympics featured section with medal tracking, event alerts, and original editorial content. Apple has also expanded the app to Apple Watch and refreshed the reader experience in iOS 11.

Subscribers can read the full The Information piece here and follow 9to5Mac in Apple News!


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