Brand publishers are increasingly attempting to have their content distributed by news aggregators such as Apple News, Google News and Flipboard, but they’re finding that some services are more amenable than others.
While some aggregators welcome content from brand-owned publications, others are turning it away on the basis that it’s not legitimate journalism or that it does not meet their eligibility requirements. Publishing teams within brands argue the policies and definitions used by some platforms to determine content eligibility are too vague, however, and that they’re applied inconsistently. As a result, it’s often unclear why some brand-owned publications are granted inclusion and distribution while others are not.
Perceptions around brand-created content are changing, and inconsistencies like these illustrate how definitions of terms such as “journalism” and “news publisher” are evolving quickly, some brand publishers say.
Content from a number of brands appears within Apple News, for example, including Red Bull, AARP, the World Wildlife Fund, Cars.com, SUVs.com, Cambridge University, McKinsey, NerdWallet, and a number of professional sports teams. But when a brand-owned health publication approached Apple recently to pitch its content for inclusion in Apple News it was turned away on the basis that that platform does not include non-journalism content.
“I was a bit pissed off,” said the editor of the health publication, who said their content is available on Google News and Flipboard.
Apple states that its News product is intended for “professional publications of a journalistic nature,” and not for publications that are “primarily promoting a business, service or non-profit.” The service also doesn’t allow publications with “factual inaccuracies, or failing to adhere to widely accepted journalistic standards.”
But some brands say those definitions are wide open to interpretation, making it near impossible to determine which non-news publications are eligible for inclusion and, crucially, for what reasons. Apple did not respond to requests for clarification on its inclusion requirements and policies.
Google News, on the other hand, has a softer stance when it comes to brand-owned publications. A Google spokesperson said that “any content that meets Google News and Search policies is eligible to show within Top Stories, the News tab and Google News itself.” There is no application process.
“Google News aims to promote original journalism and expose users to diverse perspectives and sources,” added the spokesperson, who said that ranking in Google News is based on signals including relevance, prominence, authoritativeness and freshness, but not the direct nature of the companies publishing it.
Distribution for brand-owned publications in Google News is far from guaranteed, however. Content Strategist – a publication operated by content marketing platform Contently – appeared on the service for a period before disappearing, for example.
“We could never figure out quite why, but I think it had to do with us going from publishing 2-3x per day to a slower cycle. And going from more timely reported content to more evergreen content overall,” said Joe Lazer, who was at the time Contently’s head of marketing.
Meanwhile, rival content aggregation platform Flipboard is now actively wooing brands and individual content creators, positioning itself as a vehicle for “breaking through the noise of large platforms.” A spokesperson for the company said that brands share and promote frequently on Flipboard, pointing to examples like GoBankingRates and the World Economic Forum.
Distribution becomes a priority
Audience development and growth has become a key priority for brand publishers, as many try to hunt for opportunities to reach new audiences.
As we reported last week, many are now looking to hire audience development specialists in an effort to figure out how they can grow.
Ben Young, CEO at Nudge, said that one consideration for brands is weighing whether the effort of getting included in news aggregators and maintaining cadence and consistency is worth the payoff. Often, the proposition is to “reach a mainstream consumer audience,” something that brands may not necessarily want or be looking for. If brand publishers are looking to get on news apps, they may see some success on newer apps like Artifact, or Pocket, said Young.
Still, the ongoing confusion is yet another example of how quickly interpretations of terms like “professional publication” or “journalistic in nature” are evolving. Many brand publishers, or other non-traditional content creators, will now increasingly seek guidance from major platforms on if their content is eligible for inclusion in news platforms.