Apple on Sunday said it has been sharing erroneous iOS 9 News app usage statistics with publishing partners due to an unnoticed glitch, adding that it does not know exactly how many people are currently using the service.
Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue told The Wall Street Journal that publishers serving content through the iOS 9 News app have been receiving erroneous traffic data. The apparent bug went unnoticed because Apple was focusing on building out other app features.
"We're in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality," he said. "We don't know what the right number is."
Apple did not provide details on the glitch or mention when it was discovered, but Cue noted it is better to undercount than overcount when it comes to usage data. Accurate traffic numbers are important for online content monetization as it is used to to price and sell advertisements.
With Apple News, publishers retain all proceeds from ads they sell on their own, or 70 percent of revenue for spots sold by Apple. In both cases, Apple requires advertisements be served through its first-party iAd network, a concern for some publishers that have dedicated resources to competing services from companies like Google.
Moving forward, Cue said Apple is quickly building out new features for iAd, including a self-service ad-buying tool expected to launch in the next two months.
As for analytics, the News app currently supports limited integration of tools from comScore, though the report says publications would like easier access to more detailed information. Previously, Apple kept publishers up to date with simple emailed spreadsheets.
Cue said 40 million people have used News since the app launched in the US with iOS 9 last September and in Australia and the U.K. a month later. That metric is also in question, however, as CEO Tim Cook quoted an identical number in October. Apple has yet to reveal information regarding regular usage rates or per-publication traffic.
Apple News app usage has "scaled very fast...but it doesn't mean we don't all want more," Cue said.
Cue has gone on record as saying Apple is not looking to control content distribution. Instead, the company developed News in hopes of delivering quality content to Apple device users.