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Apple Event 2018: Misadventure, misdirection, and what publishers need to know

“The secret is, always fix your attention away from where the slippery stuff’s going on. That’s the first law of magic, Specs. Misdirection. Never forget it.”

— Donna Tartt

“A sense of magic.” “Works like magic.” “Magic” was an oft-repeated part of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ vocabulary. Something he professed to believe was a fundamental aspect of what his company stood for.

And misdirection, of course, is an integral aspect of magic. Something Apple CEO Tim Cook demonstrated quite literally, with a tweet (since deleted) minutes before his keynote at Apple Event 2018.

The CEO of Apple panicking before the biggest Apple event of the year? The Twittersphere exploded. Some concern. Some derision. And a surge of interest, trying to figure out what could have gone missing minutes before the big reveal.

And then this began:

Apple started its event of the year with misdirection!

And when you think of it, the misdirection began way before, with the announcement of the event itself.

An eagle eye on Twitter had already noticed a strange coincidence, and figured out what the event was really about.

For the rest of us, we had to wait for the event to find out.

Apple Event 2018 was about Apple Park, the company’s new headquarters.

Hard to believe? Let’s look at the facts.

Apple announced 3 new iPhones, a new watch, not much else.

Except for the apparent misadventure by the Apple CEO, there were no real surprises at the event. Not too put too fine a point on it, Apple itself made sure of that. 

Whatever did not leak from Chinese manufacturers and mobile carriers, was leaked from the Apple website itself before the event. Someone found a sitemap XML file, someone chanced across the event recap page even before the event happened.

Other than the part about Apple Watch putting ECG on your wrist, there wasn’t much in the nature of big surprises.

Also, apparently tired of the “Apple event in X minutes” type videos that crop up after every event, Apple decided to try their hand at it themselves, and show how it’s supposed to be done:

Everything Apple announced, in just 108 seconds. Compare it to the 3 minutes of intense coverage Apple Park received.

Question is, if this was part misdirection, what’s the script really about? What’s happening behind the scenes that we’re not supposed to look at (right now)? And most importantly, what’s in it for publishers?

The answer was probably also hinted at in Apple’s opening film, something that Apple created and showcased. Apple has been developing video content for over a year, with supposed plans to launch its own video-streaming service.

It is investing more than $1 billion in original content, with quite a few high-profile productions in the pipeline, and plans to compete with media businesses like Netflix and HBO.

According to Adam Levy at The Motley Fool, Apple’s big push into media could result in a business bigger than Spotify and Netflix combined.

A bundle of all three services could propel the business to $37 billion in revenue by 2025, according to analysis by Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty. For reference, analysts estimate that Netflix will generate $15.85 billion in revenue this year and Spotify will bring in $6.11 billion.

“Apple did it before,” The Motley Fool contends. “It’s important to remember that Apple was already once a dominant force in digital media with the introduction of digital song and video downloads through iTunes. It was also a significant player in e-books before regulators dealt it a legal blow. Apple still accounts for about 9% of e-book sales in the U.S., second only to Amazon.”

The company has already demonstrated the ability to convert device owners into subscribers with Apple Music. Huberty estimates the streaming service will bring in $4 billion in 2018 alone, almost as much as Spotify. On top of that, Apple’s streaming service is growing significantly faster than Spotify.

Apple’s push into media isn’t stopping with just music and video. The company also acquired Texture—often described as a Netflix or Hulu for magazines—earlier this year. Now it’s talking to big newspapers about joining its subscription service.

Apple executives, led by content boss Eddy Cue, have reached out to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post about joining the app, according to Recode.

“Apple has a huge base of users — the company said its users had 1.3 billion active devices this past January — and could dramatically increase the papers’ reach,” says Peter Kafka, Executive Editor of Recode.

Apple has gone out of its way to position itself as a booster for news organizations — in part as a counterpoint to Facebook, which has frustrated many news publishers by changing its approach to news distribution multiple times.”

Also, earlier this summer, Apple hired Liz Schimel, a former Condé Nast and Comcast executive, and the chief digital officer for the media conglomerate Meredith Corporation, as its “head of news business.”

Apple is getting into media big time, with a particular focus on news.

Of course, none of this was mentioned at the Apple Event 2018. But misdirection aside, it’s exactly what publishers need to know right now.