Ever since the unveiling of iOS 5 last night, we have been trying to find the answer to one simple question. Will the Safari Reader feature in iOS 5 which removes the “clutter” from websites include the ads as part of the clutter it removes? And if so, will it apply the same principle to mobile-optimised sites viewed on an iOS 5-enabled device. And will the same rule apply equally to iPhone/iPod touch and iPad devices?
We have finally had a response from Apple, though it’s not one that gets us anywhere. Earlier this morning, we received an email from Juriaan Bosman, head of Mac PR, EMEIA, for Apple Europe. He told us: “Hi David, thank you for your interest in Apple. I am afraid there is not much more we can add at this point with regards to your question. More will become clear when we ship the product. In the meantime, the keynote is posted on the website and there is a lot more detail on the iOS site as well.”
Mmm. The detail on the iOS site didn’t get us anywhere, but at least some of our contacts in the world of mobile advertising were more forthcoming. Russell Buckley, CMO of Eagle Eye Solutions and until recently a big cheese at AdMob, told us this: “If you're right, it is potentially a big deal, as it denies any competitors the right to publish ads on iPhone. Perhaps even more controversially, it denies publishers the right to run ads on their own inventory! Apart from those sold by the Apple sales team, of course. Which is a ‘wow!’ and would rock the publishing community.”
But Buckley adds that there is a need for more optimised sites, and that perhaps this is Apple's attempt to help. “But based on the past, optimising publishers' content, even if you leave in the ads, is pretty badly received too,” he concludes.
Christian Louca, managing director of mobile ad network ubiyoo, says he believes Safari Reader on iOS 5 will function in the same way as on the desktop, saving multiple pages into one single column text page and stripping out everything else, including the ads.
When asked whether he believed this would also apply to mobile-optimised sites, Louca told us: “I am not sure yet but my assumption is that it will be for both. I do not see them developing this feature just to work on full websites. I would imagine it will come down to the user, and if they are on a well-developed mobile site, then there is not the need to utilise this function unless they just want to get ads stripped out.”
Louca adds that more than anything he heard during last night’s keynote, his main feeling was one of surprise that there was no mention at all of iAd, adding that this could be an indication that the service is struggling.
Finally, Ben Cussack, marketing director at Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) told us: “If a mobile site is designed and produced properly there's no need to use readers, so I don't see a direct impact on mobile advertising. Most mobile savvy-publishers are producing easy to use mobile versions of the magazines. A couple of good examples are Men’s Health and Company Magazine that use MIG's mobile publishing platform.”
So the consensus seems to be, it could be a big deal, but probably won’t be. Given Apple’s reluctance to shine any light on the matter, however, it will probably be a while yet before we know for sure.