Apple unveils News+ digital newsstand
How many people are willing to pay $9.99 a month for a bundle of magazines and news websites?
Apple is about to find out.
The tech giant is pitching itself as a friend to the news industry, which has been upended by technological change.
It has assembled some of the country’s biggest news and magazine publishers for a service it calls News+.
Apple is building on Texture, a “Netflix for magazines” type app that Apple acquired last year.
Texture offered access to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 a month. The app will be shutting down at the end of May, Apple said, but for the same price, the company is promising access to 300 magazines, plus a group of other news outlets, through News+.
“This is really important to us. We believe in the power of journalism and the impact it can have on our lives,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at a launch event on Monday morning.
Apple is promoting News+ as “your favorite news and magazines, all in one place.” Cook likened it to a digital newsstand — which reminded some industry veterans of the company’s prior pitches for magazine reading on the iPad early in the decade.
With the new bundle, two big newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, are included. But papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post are absent.
Mark Thompson, the CEO of The New York Times Company, explained the company’s decision in a recent interview with Reuters.
“We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else,” he said. “We’re also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else’s journalism.”
The Times, with its more than three million digital subscribers, believes it has the heft to turn down Apple.
Some other publishers also hesitated. There was consternation about the deal terms — particularly the 50 percent cut of revenue that Apple was said to be demanding.
The company declined to comment on the terms.
Several other big publishers decided to sign up for the bundle, including New York Media, TheSkimm, and TechCrunch.
Apple calls these “premium online publications.”
New York Media CEO Pam Wasserstein, Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, and other publishing executives were on hand for for Monday’s announcement.
The updated News app, including the News+ subscription service, is available right away on Apple devices. Family sharing is included in the price.
Apple said the news service will also be available in Canada, with a selection of Canadian magazines and a major newspaper, The Star, for $12.99 a month.
From the looks of the on-stage demo, it is still primarily a magazine reading experience, like Texture was.
Tom Harty, president and CEO of Meredith, one of the country’s top magazine publishers, said in a statement that “Apple News+ will be an extremely valuable mass platform to attract new paid subscribers to our titles.”
At Monday’s event, Apple also ran a promo video about journalists and photographers. The text on screen read “quality journalism matters.”
In the run-up to the event, Apple also became the latest Big Tech player to team up with media literacy programs. Three organizations are receiving support: News Literacy Project and Common Sense in the United States and Osservatorio in Italy.
“News literacy is vital to sustaining a free press and thriving democracy, and we are proud to be collaborating with organizations on the front lines of this effort,” Cook said in a press release.