A significant glitch has been found that reveals that no one—not Apple nor publishers—knows how many people are reading stories in the new Apple News app, according to a statement by Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, to the Wall Street Journal.
It’s not sure where, when, or how the glitch was discovered, but Apple confirmed to the WSJ that the glitch means the company has been mistakenly underestimating the number of readers using the News app. "We're in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality," Cue said. "We don't know what the right number is," adding that Apple believed it was better to underestimate rather than overestimate the numbers.
Though the glitch is frustrating—as is its currently elusive fix—its existence no doubt comes as some relief to both Apple and publishers. Back in November, Digiday reported that publishers were so far "underwhelmed" with the Apple News app. One publisher, who had under 1 million views a month, said "The traffic is underwhelming." Another at the time added, "They’re not generating a ton of views or traffic, and the data they provide is basically nonexistent. They claim they’re working out kinks, and they probably will. I’m disappointed, but I’m not giving up on it."
Apple News debuted as a new standalone app inside of iOS 9 in September. The app aggregates news from multiple online sources and partners—currently over 100 major publications take part including The New York Times, The Daily Mail, CNN, ESPN, the Wall Street Journal, and more. Though it's easy to see the app as a competitor to other news aggregators, like Flipboard, many theorize that the service is actually a proxy battle against Google. The app allows you to read all news stories in one place without having to search for those stories through a browser.
In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that in less than a month Apple News had racked up over 40 million users, though he did not specify if those were only users who regularly used the app or included users who have only opened the app a few times.
The accuracy of the readership numbers is important to publishers, as the data is used to set rates for ads that appear in their feeds inside of Apple News. Unlike previous iOS store revenue-sharing agreements, Apple allows publishers to keep 100% of ad revenue from the ads in Apple News that they sell themselves. Apple takes 30% if the publisher places ads via its iAds service.
Apple has not said when the Apple News analytics glitch would be fixed.