After the Apple News+ reveal, the reactions ranged in the extremes—as is often the case with Apple announcements—varying all the way from “a disappointment” to “caters to media’s middle class” to “the antidote to Facebook’s garbage.”
Apple has quite a history of defying expectations, so it would be prudent to withhold a final say until the numbers come in.
But one number was definitely on everyone’s mind.
Oprah—in a surprise appearance on the Cupertino stage—made it clear why those who were jumping on the Apple bandwagon thought it was a worthwhile investment.
“I’m joining forces with Apple,” Winfrey said to huge applause, and eventually touched on the nuts and bolts of the relationship. “Because they’re in a billion pockets, y’all. A billion pockets.”
They’re in a billion pockets, y’all. A billion pockets.Oprah Winfrey, on Apple devices
85M, #1, 5B
Of course, for news and magazine publishers, a billion pockets does not translate into a billion readers. While the Apple team did not share the subscriber count for their News app yesterday, in the Q1 2019 earnings call earlier, CEO Tim Cook mentioned Apple News has 85 million monthly active users.
What the company did share at the event though, is that according to the latest stats, Apple News is the #1 news app in the world.
Also, each month, over 5 billion articles are read in Apple News.
“We are bringing magazines to Apple News,” Cook said, announcing Apple’s news subscription service, Apple News+. “Magazines are iconic, and a part of our culture.”
The subscription service brings together over 300 popular magazines, leading newspapers and digital publishers into a curated experience within the Apple News app.
Curation is important, Cook stressed. “Our editors pick the top stories every day,” he said. “Apple News prioritizes a news sources’ reputation and value of its content over the propensity of its headlines to garner tweets and likes.”
Renowned publications such as Vogue, National Geographic Magazine, InStyle, The New Yorker, TIME, Sports Illustrated, People, ELLE, The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times have come on board.
“Apple News+ is about more than magazines,” Roger Rosner, Apple’s VP of Apps, said. It’ll also include The Skimm, TechCrunch, LA Times, and NY Mag’s Vulture.
There have been a few holdouts, especially publishers who have already built up massive subscriber bases of their own. The New York Times and The Washington Post decided not to join Apple’s news bundle.
A complete list of all the magazines available for Apple News+ in the US (so far) is available here.
The subscription price is $9.99 a month, after a free one-month trial.
Family sharing—with each user having their own individual favorites and customizations—is available at no extra charge for up to six family members.
Apple News+ includes access to content that would, according to the company, separately amount to a cost of over $8,000 per year.
No ad tracking.
Apple promises that it won’t know what readers read in Apple News, and it won’t allow advertisers to track them.
“What you read in Apple News will not follow you across the web,” says the company.
Nevertheless, the service is “personalized to your interests.” Apple explains that as you read, the app gets a better read on your interests, then suggests stories relevant to you.
To preserve readers’ privacy, the app downloads groups of articles from Apple’s servers, and then uses on-device algorithms to suggest select articles to subscribers.
Sometimes, the numbers don’t seem to add up.
While major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post opted out of joining the subscription service, The Wall Street Journal chose to become a launch partner for Apple News+, calling it a “significant shift in strategy.”
According to Lukas Alpert, who covers newspapers and digital media for WSJ, the goal is to “draw in new readers and paying subscribers without undercutting the publication’s core business.”
If the Journal charges $39 a month, and Apple opens up its content for $9.99 a month, how does that work?
Dow Jones CEO William Lewis explained how, saying that the Apple deal will “drive scale among new readers” and “WSJ members will continue to have exclusive access to the rich business reporting and analysis about which they are so passionate.” In other words, Apple users will have limited access to the Journal’s archive, compared to full-fledged members.
Apple News+ introduces an entirely new category of readers who will have the opportunity to experience a specially curated collection of general interest news from The Wall Street Journal. As a result, our newsroom will grow. This is an investment in quality journalism.William Lewis, Publisher of The Wall Street Journal
“I have not entered into this deal lightly,” Lewis said. “It was never worth doing a bad deal.”
Although the service won’t let advertisers track its users to target ads, the product will include advertising, reports Sara Fischer at Axios.
“Apple will let publishers keep 100% of the ad revenue for ads they sell against their content. If they chose not to sell ads, Apple will let publishers keep a large portion of the ad revenue Apple sells against their content.”
There’s been a lot of talk about Apple seeking a substantial cut of the subscription revenue from publishers joining Apple News+—to the tune of 50%—but no such details were discussed in the event. Journal executives also declined to comment on the terms of revenue sharing.
And in a positive development, the Journal will be hiring around 50 additional newsroom staffers to meet the needs of the Apple product, says Lukas. That’s an entire newsroom’s worth of new reporters.
Matt Murray, WSJ Executive Editor, mentioned in a follow-up memo that Apple “has the potential” to grow the Journal’s audience “further and farther, and at a much faster rate, than we have experienced before. That’s an incredible opportunity.”
He said the paper plans to hire “several dozen people in the coming weeks, including reporters in politics, US News and features, as well as editors.”
100s and 100s
“Apple says the company has hundreds and hundreds of people working on News now: Editors like Apple News EIC Lauren Kern curating articles… engineers working on the app… marketers selling News+ subscriptions… and so on,” reports Brian Stelter, Chief Media Correspondent for CNN Worldwide.
“The company plans to take News+ around the world…”
“We believe in the power of journalism and the impact it can have on our lives,” Cook said at the Cupertino event. “We think Apple News+ will be great for publishers.”
While that remains to be seen, Apple News+ seems to be responsible for creating hundreds of new jobs in the industry already.
All said and done, that’s not a bad start.
Images: courtesy Apple
Download WNIP’s comprehensive new report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.