The Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that Apple has met with ad-based companies like Pinterest and Snap. The report said a proposed "Apple network" would "distribute ads across their collective apps," and Apple would share revenue with the apps displaying the ads, "with the split varying from app to app."
For example, the Journal posited, a user searching for curtains on Pinterest might get an advertisement for an interior design app.
Apple does have a limited history in advertising: It previously had a product called iAd, and in 2016 introduced search ads into the App Store. But chief executive Tim Cook has been critical of internet advertising business models such as those used by Google and Facebook. He recently told MSNBC that he found advertisements that follow users around the internet "creepy," and said Apple had opted not to monetize its users' data.
"The truth is we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer. If our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money," he said in April.
Apple declined to comment on the report of its ad ambitions.
— CNBC's Josh Lipton contributed to this report.