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Multiple publishers say Apple plans to produce audio versions of Apple News+ stories to run alongside regular articles.
Despite Tim Cook announcing that Apple News has 125 million users overall — counting both the free and paid Apple News+ edition — the service still appears to be performing poorly. Publishers who have previously reported low revenues from it, now say that Apple is looking to revamp Apple News+ with audio stories.
There is no expected launch date yet. However, according to Digiday, sources at four separate publishers have revealed that Apple has been pitching the idea to them over the last several months. Initially, Apple was reportedly asking for permission to take the text versions and entirely produce the audio ones itself, but contract issues prevent it.
While a publication's article may appear on Apple News+, if it is turned into an audio piece, that's repurposing. Typically, few publications have contracts with their freelance writers that allow this without specific consent or an extra fee.
Digiday reports that two of its sources are saying they now plan to avoid any such problems by being the ones to proactively present pieces to Apple. Rather than Apple picking whatever stories it believes will do well, the publications intend to present pieces that they know they have the rights for.
Apple will seemingly then still produce the audio and host it within Apple News+. This means the audio is unlikely to also appear on a given publication's own site or service.
This may be one reason why, according to Digiday, publishers are reportedly skeptical about the benefits of audio. One source told the publication that they simply hadn't seen any evidence that the Apple News+ audience will want audio.
Another publisher said that they feared it could affect payments. In the time a reader takes to listen to one audio story, they may well instead of read several others.
One of Digiday's unnamed sources called the current payments they receive from Apple News+ as "horrendous," which fits with previous reports about dissatisfied publishers.