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Apple will soon bring ads to its Maps, Books, and Podcasts apps

The news: Apple may soon launch ads on Apple Maps and its owned storefronts beyond the App Store as it seeks to aggressively expand its advertising business from $4 billion to “the double digits,” Bloomberg reports.

  • Though Maps is expected to be the next platform for ads, they could also soon arrive on Apple Podcasts and Books, among other apps.

The maps opportunity: Map ads will allow Apple to tap into revenues from both small and national brands, but just how much of the map market does Apple own?

  • Apple had 1.8 billion active devices as of January 2022, but not all those use Apple Maps. In fact, Google Maps was once the default maps app on iOS before Apple introduced its own offering in 2012 and likely still has the largest share of the market.
  • Some clues: In 2017, Comscore listed Google Maps as the third most popular smartphone app, with Apple Maps at 13th. Last year, Google Maps remained at third while Apple Maps had fallen off.
  • A 2020 report from The Washington Post said that Google Maps owns 80% of the maps market with Apple Maps in a distant second at 10%-12%, though its source wasn’t listed.
  • Neither Google nor Apple have shared recent maps user figures, but if Apple’s market share is as low as some suggest, the introduction of ads could hurt plans to grow Apple Maps—except for the fact that Google Maps has been selling ads for a while.

Competition can be a good thing: Apple isn’t interested in maps dominance—its sights are set on the ad market. Google’s market share and maps ads can also help Apple bat away accusations that its growing ad business is monopolistic.

  • Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency policy ravaged the digital advertising business. While competitors have struggled through a year of dwindling ad revenues, Apple’s own ad business has conspicuously risen from the ashes, prompting complaints from competitors and regulators.
  • Expanding to maps will surely bring in more ad revenues, but Apple can easily point to Google doing exactly the same if regulators or competitors highlight it as an example of anti-competitive behavior.

No big deal: If Apple Maps is trailing behind Google, it stands to reason that the introduction of ads could further stifle its growth. But consumers might not care that much about ads being brought to maps, or any other Apple service.

  • Thanks to Google Maps’ dominance and ad business, ads are already baked into the mobile map experience. Apple is likely to follow a similar model to Google’s, where promoted businesses show up above other search results and are relatively unobtrusive.
  • Besides, most of the time users spend on iOS isn’t spent on Apple’s own apps. Users aren’t scrolling through the App Store—they’re scrolling through TikTok and Instagram. If Apple brings more ad space to the App Store, Maps, or its podcasting apps, most users might not even take notice.
  • But for brick-and-mortar businesses, it could be a different story. Big brands are more likely to dish out for maps ads than local businesses, and if Apple pushes heavily into maps, we could end up with an Amazon-like map ad economy where businesses feel they have to spend on advertising in order to be seen at all.

The big takeaway: Competitors and regulators are still wary about Apple’s ad business, but steep competition in maps makes it safe territory for Apple to expand into without competitors or consumers taking issue.