Apple to launch magazine subscription service

If reports originating from Bloomberg are true, Apple is making a renewed foray into the world of publishing with the launch of a news and magazine subscription service.

The reports aren’t entirely surprising, coming just over a month since Apple bought Next Issue Media the company behind Texture App, the digital magazine subscription service which offers users 200 titles for $9.99 a month.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has already integrated Texture’s technology into its Apple News team, as well as many of the company’s former employees, in a bid to launch what is dubbed a ‘premium subscription service’.

This isn’t the first time Apple has ventured into publishing. In 2011 it launched Apple Newsstand which combined several magazines and newspapers, but the publications were only provided on an individual title subscription basis. When Apple News started in 2015, it took a very similar approach.

One-stop digital subscription newsstands, which have been pioneered by platforms such as Magzter, are not new, but Apple disenfranchised many publishers with its Newsstand service. Whilst heralded as a huge success for publishers when the iPad first launched, Newsstand began to be abandoned by publishers just twenty four months later.

Writing on his renowned tech blog ‘Daring Fireball’, John Gruber famously stated at the time that the Apple Newsstand was a place where apps go to be forgotten.

Good e-Reader’s Michael Kozlowski took it one step further in 2013 with the somewhat legally daring prognosis that, “the end result is so horrible that it’s hard to avoid thinking it was done maliciously: if someone was tasked with hiding away a set of unwanted apps, they would be likely to come back with a design that was something very much like the iOS 7 Newsstand.”

The news that Apple is planning a premium magazine subscription service has unsurprisingly met with a mixed reaction from publishers. One source we spoke to said that the last seven years have left publishers being burned by “one platform after another” and that “there was little appetite for yet another Silicon Valley play.”

Writing in WNIP last month, Damian Radcliffe, the Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon, adds, “All of these efforts to grow subscriptions may mean we hit peak-paywall in 2018. After all, audiences only have so much money to spend on content. And large numbers of them are reticent, if not to say downright resistant, to the very notion of paying for any media.”

Strategically, however, Apple has made a clever move not only because subscription services are coming back into vogue, but also because its purchase of Texture came with the goodwill of the app’s co-founders including Condé Nast, Meredith and Hearst amongst others. With many of the world’s publishing titans already on board, Apple’s latest foray into magazine subscriptions might just work.

Still, questions abound. According to Bloomberg‘s sources, Apple’s service will launch sometime later this year, but the exact date is not known. More details will probably be forthcoming at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June where it usually announces new services.

Further reading:

WNIPBack in vogue: the return of the digital newsstand