Apple News+ set to offer audio articles

In a bid to boost new sign-ups Apple is set to offer audio editions of the text articles available on Apple News+, its paid for digital periodical subscription service.

Whilst the free-tier Apple News has 125m active monthly users, the number of premium subscribers has not been released, which is unusual for the Cupertino-based firm that is ever-eager to boast of its successes. 

Four publishers have told Digiday that Apple has offered to cover all the production costs of making audio versions of their stories. Additionally, it has requested the blanket right to convert all the publishers’ stories to audio, however they have rejected this proposal as they often feature content from freelance writers which they do not have the copyright for.

Apple retains 50 percent of the Apple News+ subscription fee, the other 50 percent is divided between the participating publishers based on how long readers have spent reading their content over a 30-day period.

“Even with Apple handling most of the heavy lifting, several publishers regard the plans sceptically, three sources said. One said it has not seen evidence that Apple News’s audience will want to listen to audio versions of their stories. A second worried that if Apple emphasises audio for News+, it could further skew the picture of who gets compensated: Listening to a story, after all, takes longer than reading one.”

The demand for audio news has followed the growth of digital assistants. Google launched its audio news briefing which runs on Google Assistant and Amazon offers flash news briefings from a variety of news organisations which can be played on Alexa devices. Apple News+ audio articles could work on HomePod and the rumoured HomePod mini. 

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