CUPERTINO, Calif.—As expected, Apple has announced a magazine subscription service built on top of its acquisition last year of Texture. Called Apple News+, it will offer fully browsable, digital versions of over 300 print magazines and newspapers like , , the , and the . The service also includes a number of digital-only publications.
The service builds on Apple’s free news content, which aggregates content from online publications like and .
As presented on stage, the service closely resembles what Texture looked like before. There is a heavy emphasis on human curation, with reading lists of articles across publications on certain themes and the like. As a bonus, magazines can offer live covers, turning their splashy photos into miniature videos.
Texture was previously owned jointly by several publishers, but Apple acquired the company, its staff, and its technology for an undisclosed amount in March of 2018. According to reports, publishers make their content available on the platform and share 50 percent of the revenue with Apple. Some publishers have balked at these terms, and some are reportedly grandfathered in from their deal with Texture, meaning that their continued participation in the service is not assured.
Others, though, have seen Apple as a potential savior from years of onerous arrangements with Google and Facebook, in which the publishers’ content has been at the mercy of opaque algorithms and the strategic whims of tech companies with mottos like “move fast and break things” as readers have moved almost entirely to those platforms as their portals to find and consume content.
Publishers have struggled over the past few years as the targeted ad platforms of Google and Facebook have taken away many of the ad dollars that would normally be spent on advertising in magazines or on content websites. Facebook encouraged publishers to bring their content to that platform but then announced a plan to switch to an emphasis to video, leading to widespread layoffs of editorial staff. Facebook then de-emphasized publisher content in its algorithms altogether, leading to even more turmoil, and the closures of many publications that had abandoned old subscription models in favor of social media distribution.
With Apple News+, Apple is trying to convince both publishers and their readers that it cares about journalism and that direct payment from readers to the publishers via subscriptions is the optimal way forward. Many publishers and readers are skeptical, however, and it remains to be seen if the play will work for all parties. Still, at least in this case, Apple’s incentives and publishers’ incentives are generally aligned, which was not always the case in partnerships with Google or Facebook.
Further emphasizing that break, Apple promoted the service’s privacy. Advertisers have no way of tracking readers using Apple News, and its suggestions and recommendations are generated client-side, not server-side, with Apple claiming that it doesn’t know what you read.
Apple News+ costs $9.99 per month, with Family Sharing at no extra cost. It’s available today in the US and Canada, with the first month free. Australia and the UK will follow later in the year.