Apple exploring audio versions of written Apple News+ stories, and it could be game-changing

Apple News+ keynote
Apple News+ keynote (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple News+ might be getting a game-changing new feature.
  • Several publishers have been approached by Apple regarding turning written stories into audio.
  • It could mean that subscribers could listen, rather than read premium Apple News+ content.

A report suggests that several Apple News+ publishers have been approached over the prospect of turning Apple News+ content into audio.

According to a report from Digiday:

Apple News+ is pivoting to audio.Over the past several months, Apple has been asking the publishers participating in its year-old premium program for permission to produce audio versions of the stories distributed there, according to sources at four different publishers that have heard the pitch.

According to the report, Apple will handle production costs of converting the written content into audio, and would compensate publishers in the same way they are compensated for their written content. Currently, Apple distributes 50% of its subscriber revenue to publishers, based on how much time people spend reading their content in a month.

It seems that initially, Apple wanted permission to turn any story it wanted into audio. According to DigiDay, this has been revised so that publishers will instead "pitch pieces to Apple, partly to avoid any roadblocks relating to intellectual property." This in part would solve the issue of reusing content written and produced by freelancers.

Publishers are apparently skeptical of the proposal, despite the fact it would come at no extra cost to them and generate extra income:

Even with Apple handling most of the heavy lifting, several publishers regard the plans skeptically, 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 emphasizes audio for News+, it could further skew the picture of who gets compensated: Listening to a story, after all, takes longer than reading one.

Apple News+, unlike Apple's other services, has really struggled to get off the ground in terms of uptake and subscriptions. The report notes that one publisher states that the revenue from Apple News+ had not changed since the product launched in March, suggesting stagnant subscriber numbers. Could the addition of audio content, essentially a news podcasting service, be the feature that propels Apple News+ into mainstream user uptake? Would you be more inclined to subscribe to Apple News+ if it offered audio, as well as written content? Not to mention that this would make the service much more accessible to visually impaired users of iOS. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9