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Inside Apple’s Courtship of News Publishers

When news publishers have a big story these days, their editors jump on Slack and pitch it to an unlikely partner: Apple. The tech company has built a small but powerful news team that is making Apple a key distribution outlet for news publishers.

From the pitch received via a dedicated Slack channel, Apple’s editorial team of about a dozen staffers in the U.S. decides what story gets featured at the top of the app or to the left of the home screen. That can yield a flood of traffic for publishers. Apple News has generated half of Vox.com’s daily traffic at times, according to a person familiar with Vox’s numbers. An executive at the website of a major TV network said Apple News has accounted for as much as 60% of traffic for some stories.

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“We’d love to build an audience there, but it doesn’t make sense until we can monetize,” said one media executive. “It’s similar to Facebook Instant Articles, but Apple seems to be a bit more committed to publications than Facebook.”

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“We’re going to have to see some real revenue coming from it, or we’ll have to make Facebook Instant Articles-esque decision.”