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Apple launched its News+ subscription product…

But I think it’s dead on arrival

By Alan Soon, co-founder, The Splice Newsroom | Apr 1, 2019

Apple launched its News+ subscription product. It features esteemed mastheads like Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, and the Wall Street Journal in a gorgeous, native Apple experience. Apple is also making an important bet on a privacy-first product strategy, promising that robots won’t track your interactions with the content and instead will emphasize human curation. Recommendations will be done on-device and not in the cloud.

But I think it’s dead on arrival. Three thoughts:

  1. We still seem to be stuck in the issues, editions, and magazine metaphors — we’re not coming up with a fresh, digital-first understanding of what publishing and consumption should look like for a generation of people who’ve never bought a magazine off a newsstand.
  2. It’s really a magazine-subscription service, which is odd because it’s meant to be a “news” product.
  3. It sucks having to read magazine content on a phone — this is clearly an iPad experience. But is this the best we can do? See the first bullet point.

But this is what I find especially interesting: 5-10 years ago, we would have seen this as a win for publishers. Some would even go as far as to say this is a product that would “save” journalism.

In 2019, publishers (and pundits) are smarter than to bet on platforms, where they have no control over the discovery of the content, its experience, and the relationship with readers. And there’s also the question of audience-acquisition costs — Apple in this case, is charging publishers a 50% “tax” on all revenue coming off News Plus. So it’s important to note that there’s no NYT, no Washington Post, no FT. In fact, WSJ — one of the launch partners — is merely offering a limited selection of its content.

So we’re seeing a maturation of the publishing industry, one that is more confident about its relationship with its readers, and its ability to sell memberships and subscriptions. We know a bad deal when we see one.

Email alansoon@thesplicenewsroom.com | Follow @alansoon on Twitter

This article was originally published in Splice Slugs and does not express the views of Reuters. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author.