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Apple News Getting Sponsored Posts: 'Native' Ads That Look Like Regular Articles

It's going to get trickier telling the difference between legit news articles and sponsored ad-like articles on Apple's own Apple News app for iOS.

At the moment, publishers are already able to upload sponsored content to Apple News, but are required to tag stories as native content in metadata, clearly labeling such branded content.

For the most part, however, this feature never really took off with publishers because they themselves were unclear as to how to make any money off of it anyway. It seems Apple is guiding the way now as it's offered a new ad unit to aid publishers to better monetize their content.

It's a bit shady though. The new sponsored content on the Apple News app will be displayed inline with news articles. Except for a small "Sponsored by" tag at the bottom of the ad, not much else distinguishes a native ad from a regular news article.

"The sponsored advertiser name is optional. If an advertiser name is not provided, the reader will see 'Sponsored' in the banner," says Apple's developer guidelines (PDF) regarding the new ad format.

In addition, the excerpt describing the sponsored ad content won't be displayed on iPhone and iPod Touch if a publisher's title for an article wraps to four lines, keeping it within the boundaries of the ad unit.

To be specific, a sponsored ad unit has to have a title at least 22 characters in length, up to a maximum of 64 characters. Its excerpt can be up to 450 characters long, and the attached image should not be larger than 50 KB in size.

For Apple, it's a win-win. The company offers new ad units to publishers that enable both parties to make more advertising money. The publishers get a new way to push their sponsored content to more eyeballs and Apple takes its usual 30 percent cut of the revenue.

As of January this year, Apple's Eddy Cue shared that more than 40 million people had used the Apple News app. This update should roll out en masse by the time the Cupertino company's big event next week.

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