Apple Slips Native Advertising Into News App

Apple recently updated its iAd specifications to allow the display of sponsored posts directly in users’ news feeds in the Apple News app for the iPhone and iPad.

The ads will appear in native-banner format and can link to articles in the News app. They will be set in the same default font as News articles and will have the same look, with a title, text excerpt and a small image. They will carry a small tag indicating they’re sponsored content.

Publishers already can upload sponsored content to Apple News, but they must flag that content as native content in metadata or be suspended from accessing the app.

There is, however, little sponsored content on Apple News at present.

Following Facebook’s Lead

Apple’s move is part of an ongoing competition with Facebook to better monetize news feeds and help advertisers better monetize their ads, suggested Shachar Radin-Shomrat, chief marketing officer at myThings.

“By introducing News Feeds, Facebook made native ads a part of the consumer mix for social content and effectively educated the market,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Offering native ads in its News app is “a very strategic move on Apple’s part, because native is the format that best fits mobile content consumption,” said Radin-Shomrat, noting that the “significant growth” of content recommendation firms Outbrain and Taboola show native advertising “is huge and only getting better.”

Native Ad Pros and Cons

There are “lots of opportunities to get this wrong,” cautioned Mike Goodman, a research director at Strategy Analytics. “When you start blurring the line between content people want and push branded content that’s really an ad, you potentially alienate readers. Apple’s treading very close to the line, if it hasn’t crossed it already.”

On the other hand, “the key here is, advertisers want to be in front of consumers, and this is another mechanism for them to do so,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Apple is trying to provide advertisers with different ways to reach consumers, and if executed correctly, it could be a win-win for both and neutral to consumers.”

The Clickbait Danger

If Apple can use “all the analytics it can gather from the user’s browser history and location-based information, and provide something much more focused, targeted and, to a large extent personalized, it will be good for advertisers and consumers, said Mukul Krishna, a senior global director of research at Frost & Sullivan.

“Anything this personalized might actually work,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The danger lies in the similarity between the look and feel of the sponsored content and news stories, Krishna said. “That may backfire, because people may not like interruption of their news feeds, and it might also become an annoyance if there are too many sponsored ads that aren’t relevant to people.”

Still, content recommendation ads from Taboola and Outbrain “appear on all leading news sites,” paving the way for other players, Radin-Shomrat said. “As marketers come to realize the higher performance associated with such ad inventory and access more tools enabling them to utilize native ad inventory programmatically, I expect them to fully embrace such ads.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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