Podcast / Scale / Episode 14

Unlocking the Power of Content Syndication: Exploring Apple News and Beyond with Kieran Delaney of FLATPLAN

Headshot of Kieran Delany, guest on episode 14 of scale podcast

Discover the fascinating world of content syndication platforms in our engaging conversation with Kieran Delaney, CEO of FlatPlan. We uncover how FlatPlan simplifies the process of delivering content to Apple News without plugins or development resources, drawing on Kieran’s vast experience in media and technology.

About Kieran Delaney

Kieran is CEO at FlatPlan. FlatPlan helps media brands distribute content to news apps including Apple News, Flipboard and Upday.

If you have any questions or would like to hear more about FlatPlan, you can contact Kieran or the FlatPlan team at Flatplan.io

Show Notes

Together, Kieran and I dive into the opportunities and challenges presented by Apple News for publishers. We discuss how the platform is revolutionising the way publishers and readers interact, and the role it plays in driving readers into the publisher’s own environment. As we venture further into the world of Apple News, learn how the platform can help better understand users’ preferences over time and create new opportunities for medium-sized publishers.

Finally, we explore various monetisation strategies employed by publishers to strike the perfect balance between providing quality content and generating revenue. Uncover the role of newsletter campaigns and data capture in driving readers to subscribe, and how discoverability on syndication platforms can be used to reach new audiences. As we wrap up this insightful conversation, Kieran shares some helpful advice for publishers looking to get started with syndication, suggesting platforms like Flipboard and Pinterest.


(0:00:01) – Navigating Content Syndication Platforms

(0:10:21) – Apple News for Publishers

(0:24:29) – Monetizing Content on News Platforms

(0:32:28) – Publishers’ Content Syndication and Delivery


[] Stewart

Hi there and welcome to Scale A podcast for Modern Media. My name is Stewart Ritchie, the finder and lead developer at Powered By Coffee, a web and software development agency focusing on media companies, working with open source solutions to, help them get where they’re going into what they wanna do.

SCALE podcast is about how the technology impacts media and how media is impacted by technology. we’re interested really in where things have been, where they’re going, and are really tumultuous time for the media. As we, as we kind of come into, the last half of 2023 as we’re recording. ​

our guest today is Kirin Delaney, the CEO of FlatPlan, FlatPlan provides syndication for content from, many content management systems into primarily Apple News.

But there’s some other kind of bits and pieces coming up there as well here. And you have tons of content and publishing immediate experience in your background. from what you know, we’ve known each other for a little while. Tell, tell us all about it. Tell us about yourself. Tell us about Flat Plan.

Tell us how you call here.

[] Kieran

Sure. Sure. hello and thank you for, thank you for having me here, Stuart. so yeah, so my, my background, To be honest, it’ll probably date me in terms of age, in terms of my background. So my background started working at a publishing company called ETP Limited, which was, standard for inquiries today publishing.

and they published magazines that you could, any product you saw within the magazine, you could actually fill in a form at the back post it, and then the person selling that product could then. Back in touch, possibly by telephone, I guess. so I mean, that makes it sound like I started in the fifties, but in fact it was just of, the internet taking off really.

So I joined company at that point, and was the sole web designer,bunch of designers and,had to kind of sell. sell this internet thing to them in many ways as well as,working alongside their team. So I learned a lot about,the quality and the production that goes into print, but also learned a lot about, explaining why technology can sometimes massively help publishing industries.

So that kind of has continued, as it were, for, for quite a few years. So I went from there, into consumer publishing. So over Toia. Oh, well, as it’s known now, it.

Partly on, one of their websites and also on the commercial side of things as well. and then went over to com, which was. A kind of a flagship, website publication for timing at the time. very big, prestigious, magazine with a huge, website as well at that time. and that, that kind of, that kind coincided with the rise of, of Facebook, and the size of the size of the traffic that Facebook was bringing in to publishers Likee.

And so we reacted. A lot of that and kind of, worked very closely with, with socials on that fund. So, left there and set up a company that, an agency really that, that focused a little on the UX side of things, but really looked at bringing together technology and business thinking together really.

So, Instead of just thinking about, the platform that, a publishing website should be built on, thinking about how it would make a difference to, to publishers

from. Spotted, spotted a kind of requirement for, primarily for Apple news delivery. Really, apple News had had been launched and it turned out it was quite difficult for publishers to, to, to reach that platform. So we built some software, and it’s grown from there. And, and so now we are delivering hundreds of millions of, of article views a month to, to Apple News and expanding out to other, other news apps, platforms.

There basically,

[] Stewart

And this, this software, this is what has become FlatPlan.

[] Kieran

That’s correct. Yeah, that’s Flat Plan. And so we are a no code tool for delivery to Apple Ns. and what that means really is that, we, we, we, we allow delivery into what’s kind of quite a tricky format, into a app, that Apple runs, without requiring plugins or, or any development resource, anything along those lines.

[] Stewart

Awesome. what’s so difficult about Apple News? It’s not a thing I’ve had to, to deal particularly with, so I’d love to to hear why it’s, why it’s so hard to work with.

[] Kieran

Sure. So, yeah, I mean, so. Kind of tricky about Apple News. That Apple News is, as I say, every article is, is produced in a native format within the app. So, what that means is that every, every article needs to be kind of recreated in that format and delivered into the app. Apple requires that for, for a number of reasons.

So one of the reasons is page speed. the other reason is. If we’re honest with some media, business websites, lack of ads, apple prefers for the ads to be, controlled by themselves and whatnot, within the, within the platform. but it, it brings with it. And, and the other one is, is styling really.

So Apple offers some really lovely tools to, to really, produce some really kind of print level kinda designs for, for, for digital content. but that format, The format itself is tricky, and the platform itself is tricky. and to give an example, if you were to deliver an article into Apple News and, your, one of your editorial team mistyped a URL that was within the article, the whole article was rejected.

in terms of,the, the kind of delivery, the kind of build process, really what we found when we’d first done it before launching flat Plan is that. It felt like it wasn’t too huge a task. And then the scope just grew hugely and it could turn into weeks and weeks of development, weeks of qa, and it could kind of bring in, project management, editorial design development.

And you know what that kind of led to, we found really was that either the project wouldn’t get done, it would just sit on the back burner for a very long time, or the project would get done and it would just be done. it would be like, look, This has been horrific that, the, the, the scope of this has grown so much.

Let’s just get it out there and we’ll be, we’ll be happy with it as it’s, and so you would go to the publisher’s website and they would’ve paid so much attention to their mobile site, UX design, whatnot. You’d go to the Apple News Channel and perhaps it wasn’t, wasn’t very branded, wasn’t particularly working too well, was quite buggy embeds, didn’t work.

the sort of stuff that you just wouldn’t really allow in your own digital product really.

[] Stewart

Of course. I suppose then it’s also. Or knowing that there are other platforms that do this kind of thing beyond just Apple News. Google News is one that kind of pops out to my head. It seems to be much easier, easier to work with. I think to my mind, those are the kind of big ones, but are there others off the top of your head that you kind of know about that are worth looking into?


[] Kieran

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. There’s, there’s quite a few now, really. And I think that, Google News, as you say, is the big one. And I think that the, there was a, there was a similar element to it, to a degree with amp, which you may remember, I’m sure you probably still deal with nowadays. but so the Google News is the big one, but the other big one, which people tend to forget about a little, is Flipboard.

Flipboard has been around. For donkey’s years, it’s been around for such a long time that people almost discount it nowadays, and we, we speak to, speak to people a lot about this. but in fact it has a huge audience and it has a really nice element to it whereby you have magazines, as they call it, that you can curate on very specific topics.

They’ve got really, really strong email side to, to the platform whereby people have delivered content that’s really relevant to their interests. And also has curation from an editorial team at Who? Fantastic team as well. that’s a big one. Smart News is another one that’s, that’s,

then there’s. Niche, platforms. News Break is, is a good example. News Break is very heavily kind of led towards local news and again, can, can bring in huge amounts of traffic to, to the right publishers. And I think to me that local focus is, is fantastic, right? I mean, who else, who else is thinking about local publishing in, in, in that sense, it doesn’t get as much love as it should, so, yeah.

[] Stewart

That’s awesome. I’m glad you mentioned Flipboard. I find I’ve recently, like yourself, I just comp not like yourself, but like you said, had completely discounted flip book as a thing that existed in the world. but from what I hear of what they’re trying to do at the moment, it’s really fascinating. Like they have just entirely double down on.

Flip book as effectively an activity pub client, if that means anything to you. So that’s the CMM protocols that run mastered on in that kind of world of social, decentralized social media, which is very likely to be in our futures. And I think they are doing some like really interesting stuff around following and kind of engaging in content in that, in that, And that’s fearing with that protocol and I’m like, wow, this is really cool.

Like this is a real differentiator and I kind of can’t wait to see what they do with that as they decide. Sorry, did you have something on that one as

[] Kieran

No, no, no. You’re absolutely right. And I think that, we are, we’re moving into a place where news platforms, I’m gonna mention the ai. The AI

You’ve Artifact, which is launch launched by. Instagram, founders, they’re using AI and, and machine learning in a really intelligent way to fo you know, to to surface content, to to readers in a really strong way. Flipboard is, is looking to innovate and I think that’s, it’s really important.

It’s, it’s news apps not an easy business to run, I would imagine, in the same way that many people say media businesses aren’t, as a whole. so yeah, I think innovation like that is, is important, right?

[] Stewart

Awesome. so I mean, coming back to kind of the publisher’s perspective, so I can imagine there are lots of reasons to be interested in these platforms. there’s, more eyeballs on your, on your content. but to me it feels like giving up a lot of control. and, maybe some conflicts around how those publishers are controlling and monetizing that content.

So I guess back to Bsx, why, why are publishers interested in these platforms, and these syndication services, and how do they get past? These things actually in some ways being very annoying for the end users. Like my Apple News does my head in, cuz every now and again, it’s, it just starts going off of like, all right, here’s this and this and this, and like, I don’t care, please stop.

or it surfaces that cm, problem that you get on other social media that’s algorithmic and you’re like, I’m not getting what I want. I’m getting what I’m here reading. I’m getting what I’m like, and like I can see myself being trapped into the same media bubble. but yeah. Does that, does that make sense?

You get where I’m coming from with these?

[] Kieran

Yes. Yeah, I do. Yeah. So, so that’s, that’s really interesting. I mean, I think that, so to go to your first point, really, one of the primary reasons that we hear from publishers regarding Apple News in particular is discoverability. So, One of the, one of the things that’s, that is so fantastic about Apple News from, from, from our perspective, what, what we’ve seen is the ways that publishers have surfaced, their stories are surfaced to, to readers.

So whereas,quite often we, we are looking for readers to kind of relatively actively find us or search for us. what Apple News does is it will surface stories based on things like. Your Safari history, the, the context of an article, other publications that you follow that have similar interests, and then stuff like topics and stuff like that as well.

And so what that means is that a publisher who, who, who covers, for instance, a really interesting, strong interview with a movie. That story could be positioned. Alongside and, and on the same page as, the Telegraph, producing, piece of content about the movie that, that, that that star was in.

And what that does, it just, it opens up this opportunity, especially for, I’d say medium size publishers to small but certainly medium size publishers to, to reach this audience that may not have actively searched them out. And from our perspective, That’s not enough. What we do is we make sure that when the readers get to that page, that first of all they understand what the publication is that they’re looking at.

we do that by, strong branding on all of these article pages. But then what’s key to us is that we drive, what follows within the platform, which increases the, the amount that you see from that publisher and then leads them into their own environment. So we position call to actions in the right spots within articles.

To drive through to publisher environments and for me, So much of what we do now as an industry is about owning your audience data and getting that audience into their, into your own platform some, some way, and somehow, I’ve frankly, pressing button on, they’re. News stories, if we get that audience into your environment, we’ve achieved something for that publisher, really.

and, it’s kind the old, saying of, meet, meet people where they’re, they’re in Apple. They’ve, they, you, it’s, in terms of, the, the sort of. The, the annoyance of, of some news apps. I think sometimes that does come down to, to perhaps, I’m not gonna say this is your fault, Stuart at all, but perhaps it comes down to not spending enough time with the app.

So from what we’ve sort of found, or from what I’ve found anecdotally, the more you, more you kind of consume content with these apps, the better they get to understanding what you like and what you don’t like. You have platforms, sometimes common denominator publishing of stories can land,

on your phone without you wishing it to, and often as you say, I think you called it, sort of anger or something along those lines, clicking slightly annoyed, but you also kind wanna know what the story’s about. It’s not, it’s not the way that, so, so, you know,I’d say that I would assume.

A large percentage of the audience that are regular users of these news apps are getting a good experience out. I would say that you, there’s.

[] Stewart

Yeah. Are there any numbers out there about how big that audience actually is? How many people are kind of consuming content through, through these readers?

[] Kieran

Yeah, so, so, in terms of Apple News, I think Apple News is, is up to about 50 million, active users at, at present. I think one thing.

It’s not, it’s not the, the full, the full world by any stretch. it does, from a publisher’s perspective, it does attract a pretty valuable audience. You at Apple have, quite frankly, paid lots. Content is mostly surfaced by. The algorithm and certainly by the editors on Apple News tends to be slightly longer form.

don’t get me wrong, there are, there are more tabloidy type of articles like anything, but there’s also a really strong, particularly on weekends to feature content, really strong content from that perspective as well. So it’s a wide audience, but it’s a valuable audience. Really think that’s what’s key.

[] Stewart

that makes sense. So is that, I suppose, derived from that? Within app development circles, there was like an always an assumption that if you’re gonna build an app and you can only build for one platform build for iOS because they will actually spend money, like they’re not as price sensitive more than, some of the other platforms were.

There is more of a, a reasonable,cost consideration kind of what things are going, but that’s really interesting. I didn’t know it was limited to those countries. So 150 million across kind of a subset of the English speaking world is actually quite a significant, audience. I mean, I mean you’re both in the UK population’s, what, 60 million tops?

So the overall Apple News audience is two a bit times the. Population in the uk. That’s far better than I ever would’ve anticipated,

[] Kieran

Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a, it’s a very big audience and it is, it’s very us. and what we sort of see, from a lot of publishers in the UK is that they think quite strategically about reaching that audience as well. So we do, we do some work with some publishers regarding sort of scheduling and how we can reach those audiences, you know, um, as well.

But yeah, it’s a sizeable audience and, and that’s the beauty of a, an app that’s produced by Apple themselves, right.

[] Stewart

Yeah. One of the things with Apple is that if you read their marketing material, they’re very privacy focused, everything is on device, everything is like, they don’t want to know what you’re doing, et cetera, et cetera. But how does that, does that ethos carry over into, apple News?

Are there good analytics? Like, do, do the publishing brands have a good sense of who is reading their content beyond? It was clicked this many times over this period of time. do they get kind of like good demographic data? Is there, is there stuff around that that they can access?

[] Kieran

Yes, there is. so one, yeah, one kind of impact from, from the privacy side of things is that you can’t, you can’t, integrate Google Analytics, into, into, into Apple itself. So, Problem really is that, so you have a dashboard in, in Apple News publishers it’s called, which presents the analytics.

So a lot of our publishers are, are looking at minimum two dashboards. a lot of them are looking at Apple News very, very regularly. A lot of them are looking at their analytics programs together. you get fairly good demographic breakdowns, some of the usual kinda top level stuff from location to gender to age to that stuff.

a. Discovery sources. So, if, if this, if the discovery source was a topic feed, you get good understanding of where that came from, and that’s broken down on an article by article basis.

[] Stewart


[] Kieran

we also have, so from our side, we also send analytics alerts to publishers, which just helps to, just to kind of gain, to, to ensure that like newsrooms are paying attention to what’s happening in Apple News alongside their website traffic.

and the reason, part of the reason for that really is. Traffic often behaves quite differently in Apple News. there are lots of publishers that we see that,can have huge success from one story one day that their website traffic is not, is not reached in, in any kind of similar way. So, there’s some, there’s some really interesting, takes to be having from, that, that kind of analytics breakdown as well.

And obviously that. That stretches out to other platforms as well. But for us,we, we, we hear publishers saying, wow, that story did fantastically on Apple News. And it’s, we need to do more it on the site itself.

[] Stewart

So are those, I wonder then if that’s a basis of different modes of consumption. Like so Apple use, I suppose you’ve kind of got two modes of like, here’s an alert for a story you’ve been giving. That’s kind of a breaking thing, but also the kind of more magazine like you refer to your other kind of the longer form. Where people have gone into the app looking for something to consume and they’ve been served at rather than a destination website, they might go to consume it that way. Is that broadly the expectation of what’s happening there?

[] Kieran

Possibly. Yeah, I mean there, there’s a lot of different reasons. I mean, the editorial, the sort of editorial curation, curation part of Apple News is kinda key. So at any stage, of looking at the app, there is a human element to it. So if you log onto the homepage, the for you section of the homepage is curated by, human editorial team.

I mean, all editorial teams are human, but they’re humans that are curating it. well, yeah. You never know. and then what, then what’s now happening across the platform is that that’s going further and further into different sections. So, the team, the team that curates sections is growing. And so in topics is a really good example.

A new, iOS has rolled out this week and topics and now curated as well. So whereas in the past you might have gone to politics, US politics section. And would’ve just seen a stream of content, possibly lots of it from Wall Street Journal, et cetera, et cetera. Now there’s a curated element to it. Team, interesting stories,

sections. Whole human level to it. And the other part to it is, is as I mentioned, if you’ve got a story that happens to, appear underneath the Telegraph or, the Guardian, et cetera, you could pick up a huge amount of traffic, from off the back of being featured on that, on that page as well.

So it’s that unique set of route that, you know, can sometimes, differ from, so social traffic or website traffic, et cetera, et cetera. So it could be

[] Stewart

Awesome. cool. Samin from the publisher side, I suppose from the brand side, you’re looking at these syndication platforms, kind of really top of funnel as like trying to get someone dying into, brand exposure to then like consume our content. on our own site or your environments as you kind of refer to them as.

[] Kieran

but I’m aware that there is some level of monetization available within Apple News, kind of from the adverts place directly in the ads, but also, is it Apple News Plus is the program that they run? Yes. Yep.

[] Stewart

didn’t launch great from what I remember, but it’s apparently come a long way.

[] Kieran

Yeah, absolutely. So, apple News Plus has indeed, come a long way. I think that, I mean to kind start off just from the, the simple kind monetization perspective, yes, you can run ads in Apple. it’s a back is kind the way that most people are doing it. So it’s the, the kind of initial approach, from Apple’s perspective, I believe was, Direct advertising.

So run direct advertising through, your own ad server into Apple. that’s then kinda, you have a waterfall approach and then you can have backfill advertising that Apples, apple, apple sell on it’s NBC Universal that’s selling it. and then you can run house ads. So you can have a kind of waterfall system, like that,that isn’t a, isn’t necessarily, the backfill advertising side of Apple.

Monetization deal, as it were for, for publishers. simp, I mean for, for various reasons. But what we tend to find is that, Again, that discoverability element is, is kind of key. And so we often say to publishers about using house ads, as well within, within that kind of waterfall. and then one thing that’s kind of happened, relatively recently, which has certainly sort of increased monetization for publishers is that certain programmatic, partners are now working within Apple News as well.

So you can, you can, you can speak with, with, with some of probably quite often. programmatic partners you may be working with already. they can plug in, plug in, and go on Apple as well. Then you’ve. But as I say, for us, really the focus is often, we, we don’t get too involved in the advertising side of things. We are much more about the distribution of the content. And so we, for us it’s more about getting that audience into those environments, as I say, really. so yeah, that’s, that’s the kind of advertising side.

Apple News Plus is, as you mentioned, the subscription product. the Apple, run on Apple News as well. It’s, heavily magazine based or periodical based really. and there are, this kind of traditional magazine publishers and newspaper publishers that are, that are within the subscription bundle.

And then you’ve got a few publishers like Vox that are doing quite interesting, periodical style, products within as well. And you’re right, we are now, hearing a lot from publishers saying, this is, this is making a difference to the business now, this has grown to. it’s no longer just this line item.

It’s actually quite an important part of what we do. and there’s, obviously there’s a, there’s a monetization element to it, but there’s also a circulation element to it. it counts circulation and it allows you to run advertising as you would in publication and as well. So, so there’s, there’s some, you the thing about it that. that I think is really interesting is that the approach from Apple was to, it was to think about the print product in many ways. You know, it was to launch this subscription news product, but based around magazines. You know, I think for me, the fact that. print goes, it goes all the way back to, when I first started out, I care a lot about print and I think for there to be, another revenue string for magazine print publishers, to me is positive.


[] Stewart

Yeah, I just wanna come back to something there that you mentioned. Circulation. real like old, not that old school, but like it’s an old print term. and I can envision that there are people here that I’ve never had to work with a print publication and circulation isn’t obvious what it is. tell us, like, define that for us.

Okay, sure. So, yeah, I mean the, the, so, I mean the, the, the figures that we used to look to, and it, don’t get wrong, I was always the web designer in these companies, but the, the ABCs are what would come in, very regularly. And that was the audited bureau of circulation. And that was quite simply a number of, magazine issues that had been sold or had been, should we say, opened by people, read by people, and.

so that’s, that’s the interesting thing. How many have been read? Not how many have been sold. So you would get like different publishers with different multiples of this. One magazine sold would maybe be seen by anywhere from two to 80 people, depending if how likely they thought it would end up in a dentist waiting room or something,

[] Kieran

Yeah. Yeah. I mean there, yeah, exactly. There was a lot of interesting stuff that that happened with, with circulation back in, I think it was, I think the ABCs was always about how many were. not necessarily looked at, but were distributed and, I wouldn’t say purchased, but were definitely in a single person’s hand.

They didn’t, they didn’t look specifically at how many people shared that that was something that we always did, like internally places of saying, oh yeah, this was definitely every issue is by 10 separate people, percent, but, but yeah, it’s, the, the circulation numbers were always hugely.

Hugely important. and then, yeah, they kind of like it, they dwindled. and but you know, now, you know there are apps, which again, it’s not really our expertise, but there’s apps like Reedley and, and Apple Plus as well that do,they, they play into the circulation numbers, which is, which is good cuz people are consuming the.

[] Stewart

And then I think the other thing with this is we are seeing a lot of publishers move to direct relationships with, with their readers. So they’re having their own subscriptions, more so than being purely advertising driven and. How does this all play out from your experience, within Apple News?

Because you’re gonna have, most of these publications are gonna have some of my free content. Absolutely fine. Throw it into the syndication platform, get it out there, get it into front of the editors and exposed. But some of the really good content, like the in-depth journalism, is gonna be behind that paywall to make sure it is paid for.

Well. How, how do you feel? Or what have you seen or experienced around how teams should balance the need to make sure that content is monetized, to pay for it itself, but is possibly a really good top of funnel piece for, for the Apple use editorial team to be like, yeah, let’s highlight this one. along with the need to then not devalue that content is.

Being free. So to put off possible subscribers in the future, if I’m like, well, anything good ends up free in this, like where, and I imagine there’s no one right answer to that. It’s gonna be different for each publisher and their own needs, but what, what have you seen happen? What have you seen work or not?

[] Kieran

Yeah, sure. Yeah, sure. I mean, I think, you’re right. it, it very much varies on,the publisher’s, strategy itself. and, and, and also in many ways the, the type of publication. They produce, we work with Creative Review, which is in many ways kind of a B2B publication, but does crossover into B2C very much.

and the way that they approach it is that they, yeah, they drip feed some of their content and the content that they drip feed tends to be the stuff that is kind of consumer facing, with that hook into. This is really interesting, and this is about design, but there’s a lot more to think about, a lot more to do with the creative arts.

you can, you can dig into and you can really consume it as a lovely product that you can own, et cetera, et cetera. and then we work with publications like The Atlantic, who are, revered current publication that deliver. Almost everything, I think possibly everything into Apple News.

So they deliver, magazine into, into Apple News Plus, and they deliver free content and paid content into Apple News, as well. and I think, to me, what publishes, a lot of publishers now are thinking further than just. Here’s some content you have to pay for it.

it’s a lot more about here’s what comes with your subscription and here’s what membership means, and here’s like community and here’s everything that goes with being a subscriber to, to this publication. And I think that’s where the message has to be, I think has to be wound into these platforms in order to make sure that the reader is.

In no way thinking that they’ve got the full product by, by seeing some content, on a platform of some sort, some sort, if you sign up for, you’ve got really good system for data capture and then you use newsletters really in a really smart way, and then. Direct those readers. I mean, look at the New York Times, direct those readers into a messaging that, that makes it so clear as to,as to the journey that you are undertaking by being part of this community.

That’s the way that you, you know, you, you, you, you gain a, a really strong subscriber base. I think really, you know, I, I recently subscribed to, or resubscribed to the New York Times because, because of their audio app that they just, they just released, And,and heard loads from them, so much from them on, on email.

it might have annoyed you, Stuart, I know you said you didn’t like too many push notifications, but got loads of emails in and it was so clear to me what this meant. it’s like, oh, there’s a lot here. there’s a lot for me to be,to, to be consuming here. And that’s exactly what I want, So I think,discoverability. On any of these platforms is that opportunity to reach an audience that quite simply may never have engaged with you at all. It wasn’t jobs.

[] Stewart

Absolutely. Because this all sounds very positive. you put your content into, into Apple News and other syndication services and you’re exposed to a whole world of new readers that wouldn’t have been exposed to the brand. If you are so inclined, you can do some monetization within that. But what, there must be some downsides to all of this as well.

I mean, you’ve alluded to the fact that it’s actually a very difficult platform to work. With and to actually get the technical piece of it right. A lot of it feels like it’s about getting on the right side of an editor to pick you for curation. but are there, are there downsides other than it’s a risk you’re gonna put some time and money into it and it might not pay off, at least not immediately.

Or what have I missed in all this? What’s the.

[] Kieran

Yeah, I mean, I think one, one kind of issue with, with, with news apps, but, but I think in, in, in many elements of what we do is, the amount of content that is being produced to be consumed, right? So I think if you are a. Very, very slow kind of turnaround. if you, if you turn around content at slower pace than than some publications, you may find it hard to, to reachable. Think about when we talk with publishers in terms of platforms is, about some form of consistency. and we, we have had publishers that we’ve spoken to in the past that have said, well, we, we kind of, we deliver like four stories every two weeks, all in one day, because that’s how we, how it works in our system.

And we’ve said, well, you know what, it’s, it’s probably not gonna be for you because you may get a little bit of a blip of traffic from that point on, but it just isn’t gonna work. It isn’t gonna work. So, it’s. If you are a publisher that produces a, a, a relatively higher output of content.

These platforms are, are really, really strong, really, really strong. but you know, ultimately, There’s other elements to it. if you are a really niche publisher, you can own a topic in Apple News and you’ll receive a lot of traffic from that follow, you’ll follow. but yeah, you, it all comes back to having a good business model, right?

I. There’s no point in distributing your content on news apps if you have no plan as to what you’re gonna do when you get those, those eyeballs really, it’s not a place to, none of the news apps really are a place to say, well, you know what? We, we deliver, we deliver content to news apps, and I’m sure the money will come flying in.

it’s, it’s not, it’s part of, part of a, a smart business strategy overall, really, I think.

[] Stewart

Awesome. Fantastic. I think I’ve taken a, a change of tact again as a little bit with all of this. Tell us about Flat Plan, like what does it actually do because it’s, we’ve made it, I feel maybe made it sound simpler than it is because the way, it sounds like, oh, it’s like a feed of stuff that you just put into and then it ends up in Apple and using ’em like actually no.

The complexities of Apple News mean it can’t just be that simple. So. Flat Plan. What is it? What does it actually do? Help. Help us understand.

[] Kieran

Sure. Absolutely. So Flat Plan started out actually as a tool that was, an sdk. So it was, we, we asked, developers to, to, to integrate the SDK into the CMSs early on. we found that, that the beauty of that was that we only were then concerned with the content itself, and we separated that. From design development templates and delivery, that still felt too far from, from what we helped publishers with and what developers had to do.

So we moved bit closer by, by doing it with RSS feed. So like full RSS feeds, we take the body content from the RSS feed and deliver it into, into Apple using our system. and then we realized that we could remove that entirely by, by using web scraping essentially. So, All we ask for is a content source.

and as soon as we have that content source, that often is an RSS feed, it’s often an API endpoint, but it’s an rss. Most CMSs have them. as soon as we, we, we receive a, a new article in the RSS feed. We go to the article, we scrape the content from that article, and then we do, a bunch of kind of modification outside to get the content into a form that we can then transfer into, into Apple News format, and deliver into.

You know, as well as the, the issue with, with articles being rejected that I spoke to you about earlier, there are, a limited number of components as they’re call in Apple News that are accepted. so an I frame for instance, or a quiz or JavaScript widget of some sort on an article, it just won’t be accepted and again, would be rejected.

And so we do things like we, we transform an iframe into something that we call a fullback component so that it goes into Apple News and then it can. Textually makes sense. or the reader can jump back to the article on the site, directly from there. And we do other kinda transformations to make sure that, load images work or, podcasts are actually transformed into, a podcast that’s shown in, in the app cetera.

and then we delivery from there and we sort of have our support team work with. Editors and with Apple directly to, to make sense of, strategy, but also the technical side of things. That’s what’s.

[] Stewart

Absolutely. I mean, one of the things is Apple use is very highly designed. it’s very,Most articles, right? Dilation, polished, and I know Flatland takes care of, of that, but obviously that’s a bit up to the, the end client to be able to, to articulate what it is they they need and want from that.

[] Kieran

Yeah, I mean it’s, it’s easier than it sounds actually. So Apple. Apple prefers for the, the, the publication on Apple News to, to look like the mobile site usually. So what we do is we, we carry over typefaces, colorways, everything that kind of matters from a brand perspective, and then add our tools and our elements into it as well.

Top of that. So in actual fact, the process is really easy. It’s kind of a, the approval process for publishers is more like, Hey, have we. Have we got it spot on in terms of what your digital product looks like on mobile? If we have then happy days, we then syndicate into.

[] Stewart

Fantastic. And obviously you’ve big focus on Apple use, but are there plans to kind of make your work available kind of to other syndication platforms at all, or happy to stay with Apple use for now? Oh,

[] Kieran

Yeah, yeah, no, so, so we are, we, we are very much focused on Apple News, but we do also cover, all of the platforms that I spoke about earlier actually. So, the reason I speak about Apple News so much is cuz there’s so much value in what we do from a technical perspective, really, it’s tricky, right?

but we do, we deliver into Flipboard and we, we work with. So we create, topic magazines in football, for example, smart News. We, they require a specific format as well. And so all of the news apps we, we deliver to, we don’t tend to deal much with, Google News. but we do get a bit involved in Google Discover as well, mainly from a site sort of strategic, standpoint.

but yeah, we, in terms of news apps, that’s our expertise really. That’s where we, that’s what we.

[] Stewart

Absolutely. And if someone publisher was just looking at getting started, getting kicking off their syndication journey, is Apple News the kind of best place to start horror. Or are they better off going, kind of some of these more open platforms.

[] Kieran

Good question. I think it, I think it would very much depend on the publisher themselves. I think that,one other sort of. thing to note really is that Apple isn’t actively accepting many of your publishers now. So if you are a relatively small, relatively niche publisher, it can be tricky to get accepted into it.

So probably the best place to start would be probably Flipboard. I think Flipboard is a fantastic place for all. I think all publishers should be on there. We’re also seeing Pinterest is actually performing really well for publishers as well. They have that kinda news element to it. and yeah, so I mean, I think, I guess, Get in touch.

We’d be happy to talk to you about, any publishers about, what would make sense for them in their, in their use case. For sure.

[] Stewart

Absolutely. Karen, thank you so much for your time. if people wanna find out more about you, about Flat Plan, where should they go? What should they do?

[] Kieran

Sure. So, yeah, head to Flat Plan io. and, and yeah, you’ll, you’ll find everything there. and you know what, I’d be happy to talk to anyone directly as well. So, my, my email address is k Delaney Flat Plan io. always happy to talk about media and technology, which is, why I’m here, Stewart, as well.

[] Stewart

It’s why you’re here. Well, maybe we’ll have you on again if I need to fill, fill a spot and we’re like, right. What’s happening? Because yeah, I mean while, while we’re on that kind of topic, I’m fascinated at kind of these like newsrooms that are like not shut and down, but are like really having trouble and kind of so much of it.

The newsrooms were born out of social media, so like your vices and your Buzzfeed news that were like, These recent, not vices recent, but like they built on these platforms that changed dramatically and then took all their traffic away. And I feel like that’s a pertinent question for another day when it comes to the syndication stuff.

Cause you’re like, you’re putting a lot of eggs in a basket you don’t control. but yeah, I think everything’s like that with these. These platforms, aren’t they? And anyway, that’s, we’re getting

[] Kieran

yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly. We, we would have to double the length of this podcast. I’ve got some very strong feelings that for sure. So, so yeah.

[] Stewart

Awesome. Thanks again, Karen. really appreciate it. ​

thank you, for listening. if you wanna leave us a review, that would be really helpful. you can review us on iTunes, Google podcasts, wherever you’ve picked this up. we would really love it if you could share it. with your network, like us on LinkedIn, Twitter, it’ll lobby in the show notes.

If you wanna, if you wanna connect, you can grab me on Twitter and mask it on and LinkedIn. again, grab them in the show notes. thanks so much for listening and we will speak to you again in two weeks. Thanks very much.

[] Kieran

Thank you very much.

[] Stewart


A modern media podcast

hosted by Stewart Ritchie

Discover the fascinating world of content syndication platforms in our engaging conversation with Kieran Delaney, CEO of FlatPlan. We uncover how FlatPlan simplifies the process of delivering content to Apple News without plugins or development resources, drawing on Kieran’s vast experience in media and technology.

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