As someone that’s been in the business of news for a while now, I thought I’d give my quick gut-check on Apple’s new News app and some industry trends.
When we launched Circa nearly three years ago much of how we thought about news at the time was that it was a commodity and it would only continue to be further commoditized. Now here we are in 2015 and it’s happening even faster than I could have predicted.
Simply put, the future for most is distribution and aggregation paired with a native reading experience.
Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover are all examples of this trend. No longer will we be loyal to any one news provider, but rather, we’ll be loyal to the places that deliver us news right within the products we love. It will be a tumultuous time and a rude awakening for anyone believing that they can shore up their traffic and keep people coming back to their properties alone.
If you think about Apple News, Facebook, and Snapchat as browsers then delivering high quality content to directly within those walls makes loads of sense. On Facebook if you see a link to a story that would take you elsewhere, or the same story by another publisher that’s an Instant Article, I can easily predict which experience you’d rather have: you want the better one.
Do I think there’s a future for destinations and native apps? Yes, but like Circa, people will need to think seriously outside of the box about how they provide utility far beyond just delivering articles. If you’re a publisher only trading in the commodity you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage. If you resist pushing your content elsewhere within other walls (and I don’t just mean linking), you won’t just be at a disadvantage, you’ll be dead.
This future, however, will mean that publishers will need to think seriously about how retention and loyalty play into their key performance indicators. It won’t be enough that there’s a lot of pageviews — those can go away in a moment. Creating methods and utility that encourage loyalty will be absolutely critical. At Circa this has been everything to us, and our follow utility gives us a massive advantage (450% greater retention after three months than a reader that doesn’t follow stories).
I’m crazy bullish on distributing news into the new native experiences that are popping up, and I definitely think it’s the future of news consumption. The news business thought the web was a massive disruption. Now things are about to get a whole lot crazier. That’s great for the consumer, and great for the publisher that’s innovating. But it’ll be the death knell for the stubborn and slow.