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Apple underestimated how many people were using its News app

Eddy Cue says 'we don't know what the right number is'

Apple News only launched last September, but the app might have more users than the company previously thought, Apple's Eddy Cue said yesterday — Apple has been underestimating the number of people who read stories on its Apple News app since its launch, The Wall Street Journal reports. Cue said that the company didn't notice the error until recently as it was focusing on other parts of the product. "We're in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality," Cue told the WSJ. "We don't know what the right number is."

Traffic is still "modest compared to iOS install base"

But that doesn't necessarily mean that Apple News — redesigned last year to partner with big media outlets such as The New York Times, Vice, and Time Inc. — is off to a stellar start. Some of Apple's partners say they expected more traffic from the deal: Julie Hansen, president of Business Insider, said that the traffic the site saw from its Apple News inclusion was "modest relative to the enormous install base of iOS devices." The Atlantic's Bob Cohn said that "the main thing" from the deal was the size of the audience that the app could create for his publication, but noted "that's still an open question."

Cue said that 40 million people have tried Apple News so far, but didn't say how many came back to use the app regularly, nor exactly how much traffic the company had sent to its partners. He did, however, say that he was surprised how many of Apple's publishing partners relied on the company to handle ad sales. Publishers can choose to sell their own ads into the app and keep all of the generated revenue, but many have reportedly elected instead to get Apple to do the deals for them, pocketing just 70 percent. Apple's underestimation of the app's viewer numbers might have contributed to this lack of commitment, as publishers saw deflated figures as a reason not to commit to Apple's ad platform over Google's.