Apple has revealed a glitch in its News app that has left it with no idea of how many people are using it to read content distributed on behalf of major publishing partners.
Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue has revealed the problem to The Wall Street Journal, saying the company had failed to spot the counting failure, which dates back to its launch last September.
Cue said Apple was in the process of fixing the issue but didn't say how it occurred or when it would fix it. Publishers that distribute content through the News app rely on Apple supplying accurate data to sell advertising and manage ad inventory.
The Apple exec said the traffic data it had registered so far was "lower than reality" but went on to admit that, "We don't know what the right the number is", arguing that it was better to undercount than overcount.
Apple doesn't charge publishers to post content to the app and allows them to keep all revenue from ads they sell through it, while Apple keeps a 30 percent cut on ads it sells on their behalf.
The only figure Cue shared about the News app was that 40 million people are using it. That figure was already revealed by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company's fourth-quarter earnings report in late October, as it expanded the app to the UK and Australia with iOS 9.1.
Response to the service has been underwhelming so far, compared with the number of iOS devices in use, according to some publishers.
"The traffic has been modest relative to the enormous install base of iOS devices," Business Insider president Julie Hansen is quoted as saying.
Publishers' other concerns focus on Apple's requirement for them to use its iAd system to serve mobile ads if publishers sell their own ads.
Cue added that Apple was working towards the launch of a self-service ad-buying platform for iAd that it expects to launch in the next two months. Publishers have also demanded a better self-service dashboard to view usage figures as well as comScore integration.
Apple announced the News app in June, boasting 20 major publishing partners. That figure has now expanded to more than 100. Apple also promised iPhone owners that it doesn't share personal data. The new app came in the wake of Facebook announcing its Instant Articles platform.