Apple News will soon get 'native' ads that look like articles

Apple has introduced a new ad format for sponsored posts in Apple News that will appear in users’ news feeds alongside articles.

Apple revealed the new ad format in a developer specification document for Apple’s in-house mobile advertising platform updated in March.

According to the new native banner format, sponsored ads will “display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles,” and can link to an article in the News app. The advertising format is available for both the iPhone and iPad versions of Apple News.

The ads will be set in the same font as other articles in the News app, except for a small “sponsored” tag. “The sponsored advertiser name is optional,” the document reads.

Here’s the example provided for a sponsored post banner:

Currently, publishers can upload sponsored content to Apple News, but they must flag those stories as native content in metadata, or publishers could find their Apple News access suspended.

“Publishers that participate in Apple News put an RSS feed into Apple News. That feed is essentially a feed of content and some of those pieces of content might be branded content. The onus is on the publisher in that case to very clearly label and title that content,” Kunal Gupta, CEO of advertising tech firm Polar, told Business Insider. Polar is currently “exploring” adding Apple News support to its native ad platform.

But there is almost no sponsored content on Apple News today, perhaps because publishers are unclear how to monetise it.

The new ad format would clearly label branded content in the app, as well as give publishers a new way to sell and promote sponsored posts, although it would come at a cost: Apple keeps 30% of the revenue it produces through iAd.

The updates are another sign that Apple is working on providing ways for publishers and advertisers to monetise the new content platform.

In January, Reuters reported that Apple was planning to give publishers the ability to make content in the news app available only with a subscription. The same month, Apple announced that it had disbanded its iAd sales team in a move to make its ad platform completely automated and self-serve for publishers. iAd is currently the only way to fufill advertisements on Apple News.

The new format may also be a reaction to new FTC guidance passed in December that forces advertisers to clearly mark content as sponsored. Although the policy is targeted at advertisers, the policy covers “everyone who participates directly or indirectly in creating or presenting native ads,” including Apple.

Apple News will be updated as part of the the latest version of iOS, expected to be released next week. Eddy Cue, the Apple executive in charge of online services, told the Wall Street Journal that 40 million people had used the Apple News app in January.

Apple did not return a request for comment.

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