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August 28, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:32am

Mail Online threatens to delete iPhone app – but other publishers see upside to new Apple privacy policy

By William Turvill

Mail Online has threatened to delete its iPhone app because of a new privacy policy from Apple that threatens to eat into its advertising revenues.

Facebook has also spoken out against changes Apple plans to make to its “Identifier for Advertisers” user tracking features, warning that publishers, among others, are likely to suffer.

However, the boss of an influential publishing industry body has questioned this assertion and suggested that many news companies may benefit from the changes.

What is the new Apple privacy policy?

As part of the upcoming iOS 14 update to its devices, Apple plans to help protect user privacy by making IDFA an opt-in service for its users.

In effect, this means that iPhone users will be asked whether they want apps to be allowed to track their behaviour on their devices. The working assumption of many tech and media experts is that most users will not opt in.

On Wednesday this week, Facebook published a blog post, “Preparing Our Partners for iOS 14”, in which it claimed that the shake-up may “severely” impact publishers that use its own Audience Network software to make advertising money.

What are publishers saying about the Apple privacy policy?

Mail Online boss Martin Clarke said the changes are a major concern for him. Speaking to Vox/ Recode, the publisher of DMG Media suggested that revenue generated from Mail Online’s iPhone app could fall by 75%. He added that this could lead to Mail Online deleting its Apple app, forcing readers to access content via its website.

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Most major publishers have yet to comment. But Jason Kint, the chief executive of online publisher trade body Digital Content Next, suggested that other news businesses may benefit from the changes.

He tweeted that one of his members had told him: “I only see upside for us.” Kint said: “Premium publishers are happy to see adtech, Facebook and Google lose access to tracking their users through their ‘tools’ as long as they can keep serving their own users which they can.”

He added: “If you know of any publisher besides Mail Online screaming about this, have them call me as I want to know of any arguments possibly missed. Crickets so far. Modest short-term risk with proof of upside long-term by stopping tracking by dominant third parties [especially Google and Facebook].”

David Chavern, chief executive of the News Media Alliance in the US, told Press Gazette: “The potential impact certainly varies from publisher to publisher — but I would describe the general view of US publishers as being that Apple’s change is likely more annoying than material.  News publishers aren’t huge beneficiaries of cross-app tracking and, more broadly, we see the broader ecosystem moving against highly targeted programmatic ads.

“Tracking and targeting aren’t the future and that might actually end-up benefiting publishers, such as some move back to contextual advertising.

“The annoying part comes from the short-term loss of revenue at a time when all revenue is important, and the unilateral nature of Apple’s decision.  They decide and the rest of the world just has to adapt.”

On Thursday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported on concerns – from DMG Media’s Clarke and others – that the changes could “hurt ad sales at a critical moment for the industry”.

Peter Spande, publisher and chief revenue officer of Insider Inc, told the Journal it was “by no means life-threatening to us, but for smaller, independent publishers that are very reliant on programmatic [advertising], this could be really destabilising”.

Publishers have also taken issue with another iOS14 update that they fear could see Apple “intercept” traffic from their websites.

What is Facebook saying about the new Apple privacy policy?

On Wednesday, Facebook published two blog posts on the iOS 14 update. The social media giant said it would not be collecting IDFA data on its apps on iOS 14 devices because of Apple’s consent changes.

Facebook said this could make its Audience Network – a service that enables advertisers to extend Facebook and Instagram marketing campaigns on to other apps – “so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14 in the future”.

The company said the Apple changes could “severely impact publishers’ ability to monetise through Audience Network”.

“For developers and publishers using Audience Network, our ability to deliver targeted ads on iOS 14 will be limited. As a result, some iOS 14 users may not see any ads from Audience Network, while others may still see ads from us, but they’ll be less relevant. Because of advertisers’ reduced ability to accurately target and measure their campaigns, app developers and publishers should expect lower CPMs on Audience Network and likely other ad networks on iOS.”

Facebook recently conducted a study that found Audience Network publisher revenues could fall 50% “when personalisation was removed from mobile app ad install campaigns”. It added: “In reality, the impact to Audience Network on iOS 14 may be much more, so we are working on short-and long-term strategies to support publishers through these changes.”

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