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Apple reveals error in News app audience figures, hurting publisher ad revenue

Apple News has drawn out an upward trajectory since its launch with more than 100 publishing partners world-wide signing up to the service in the hope of increasing their readership, however Apple has admitted it has no idea how many people have been using the service.

Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, said the company missed an error in the viewing figures and has been passing on inaccurate information to the publishers distributing their content on the service.

Cue said the error has resulted in Apple underestimating the number of people reading stories on Apple News and disclosed that it was unaware of the issue until recently.

"We're in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality," Cue told the Wall Street Journal. "We don't know what the right number is." He added that the company could not explain how the problem occurred or give a window as to when it would be fixed.

While Cue was quick to add that it was better to undercount than overcount traffic, the inaccurate numbers given to publishers is likely to have affected their ability to sell advertising and manage their resources accordingly.

Another way in which he revealed publishers’ ad revenue was being affected was in allowing Apple to handle their ad sales. On Apple News publishers have the option to sell their own ads into the app and keep all of the revenue generated from them. However many have elected to have Apple conduct deals for them and as a result pocket only 70 per cent of the ad revenue.

The news is likely to make some publishers increasingly anxious about how they can monitor their content beyond their own properties.

Even with the undercounting, many publishing bosses have been vocal about what they see as underwhelming readers coming from the app

Julie Hansen, president of Business Insider, which is now publishing all of the content it produces to Apple News said “the traffic has been modest relative to the enormous install base of iOS devices.”

Apple's app's viewer numbers error may also have contributed to a lack of commitment from publishers who would have interpreted deflated figures as a reason not to commit to Apple's ad platform over Google's.

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