Ap­ple takes an­other swing at news sub­scrip­tions

If the price and con­tent is right.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY MICHAEL SI­MON

Raise your hand if you re­mem­ber The Daily ( go.mac­world.com/ daly). Back when the ipad still had a 30-pin con­nec­tion port, Ap­ple teamed up with News Corp to bring a new type of pub­li­ca­tion to the bur­geon­ing tablet mar­ket fea­tur­ing ex­clu­sive, in­ter­ac­tive con­tent, rich an­i­ma­tions, and touch-fo­cused games. It cost a buck a week or $40 a year and was de­liv­ered to Ap­ple’s Newsstand app on the ipad each morn­ing. It lasted less than

two years ( go.mac­world.com/dlsh).

The big­gest prob­lem with The Daily was that it was too mid­dle-of-the-road. Even af­ter the early bugs were squashed, The Daily’s con­tent was too generic to find a ded­i­cated au­di­ence, a death knell in to­day’s 24/7 news cul­ture. But Ap­ple hasn’t given up on mak­ing sub­scrip­tion news a fea­ture on iphones and ipads. Just last month Ap­ple an­nounced it had ac­quired mag­a­zine de­liv­ery app Tex­ture ( go.mac­world.com/dmss), and ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from Mark Gur­man at Bloomberg ( go.mac­world.com/mgbb), a “pre­mium sub­scrip­tion” news ser­vice is on the way.

If you hadn’t heard of Tex­ture be­fore Ap­ple gob­bled it up, the ser­vice of­fers all-you-can-read ac­cess to hun­dreds of mag­a­zines for $10 a month ( Mac­world among them). The ser­vice is one of the most pop­u­lar apps in both the Google Play ( go.mac­world.com/txgp) and IOS App ( go. mac­world.com/txis) stores, with thou­sands of five-star rat­ings.

Gur­man says Ap­ple is work­ing on in­te­grat­ing Tex­ture tech­nol­ogy into Ap­ple News ( go.mac­world.com/anws), a free reader app that launched as part of IOS 9 in 2015. Ac­cord­ing to his sources, an up­graded News app will de­but within the next year with a new sub­scrip­tion com­po­nent, with a slice of the rev­enue go­ing to pub­lish­ers. If it all sounds fa­mil­iar to Ap­ple’s Newsstand app, that’s be­cause it kind of is. Ap­ple has al­ready tried to of­fer sub­scrip­tions to news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines through IOS, but this new ap­proach has a whole lot more go­ing for it.


If Ap­ple fol­lows the Tex­ture model for the new Ap­ple News, it could be a ground­break­ing ini­tia­tive for pub­li­ca­tions. While Tex­ture is a pop­u­lar ser­vice, build­ing a sub­scrip­tion model for news into ev­ery iphone and ipad would give pub­lish­ers tremen­dous vis­i­bil­ity, and pair­ing it with the ex­cel­lent (and free) News app would let users get a taste of what their $10 will buy.

Un­like the Newsstand de­liv­ery method, read­ers wouldn’t have to buy mag­a­zines piece­meal, so an Ap­ple news ser­vice would ex­pose users to a whole li­brary of con­tent they might not nor­mally read. Also, since Tex­ture is largely a glo­ri­fied PDF reader, mag­a­zines need to be down­loaded be­fore they can be read, and there’s no real in­ter­ac­tiv­ity within them. If Ap­ple in­cor­po­rates its new ser­vice into the News plat­form, ar­ti­cles would be rich and an­i­mated, and like Ap­ple Mu­sic, Ap­ple could sug­gest ar­ti­cles and pub­li­ca­tions based on your read­ing habits, spot­light trend­ing sto­ries, and cre­ate “playlists” of

like-minded ar­ti­cles.

Be­yond Tex­ture, there isn’t a sub­scrip­tion news ser­vice that does for ar­ti­cles what Net­flix and Hulu do for movies and TV shows. With ex­clu­sive con­tent, en­gag­ing de­sign, and a sim­ple in­ter­face, Ap­ple could si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­ate and own a dig­i­tal news ser­vice that com­bines Tex­ture’s in­ter­face with Ap­ple’s smart lay­out de­sign ( go. mac­world.com/smld) and fo­cus on break­ing news. It would be like Google Reader on steroids. Rather than tar­get­ing sin­gle users, Ap­ple could cre­ate a ser­vice that ap­peals to a wide va­ri­ety of read­ers, no mat­ter what kind of con­tent they crave.

But the killer fea­ture would be cross­plat­form com­pat­i­bil­ity. While Ap­ple doesn’t yet of­fer an An­droid ver­sion of its News app, Tex­ture is avail­able in the Google Play Store, much like Beats Mu­sic was when Ap­ple bought the com­pany ( go.mac­world.com/bybt) back in 2014. Even when it shut­tered Beats Mu­sic to launch Ap­ple Mu­sic a year later, it made a ver­sion for the Play Store that’s just as good as the IOS one. I sus­pect an all-you-can-read Ap­ple ser­vice would be just as pop­u­lar on An­droid as IOS, es­pe­cially as pub­lish­ers look for an al­ter­na­tive to Face­book.

The Daily was a good con­cept that was poorly ex­e­cuted and too lim­ited in scope and au­di­ence to suc­ceed. With a new sub­scrip­tion ser­vice, Ap­ple has a chance to make things right. And it just might work. ■

News Corp shut down The Daily af­ter less than two years.

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