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April 17, 2018, 10:28 a.m.
Business Models
LINK: www.bloomberg.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   April 17, 2018

Apple is planning some paid news thing, according to a Bloomberg report — though it’s unclear if that’ll simply be a rebrand of the Texture digital magazine subscription service that Apple acquired in March, or something that includes news sources beyond magazines.

From Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Gerry Smith:

The world’s largest technology company is integrating Texture technology and the remaining employees into its Apple News team, which is building the premium service. An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans. Apple declined to comment…

A new, simplified subscription service covering multiple publications could spur Apple News usage and generate new revenue in a similar manner to the $9.99 per month Apple Music offering.

So many questions! The big one: Could such a service include access to paywalled newspapers (or books or podcasts or anything beyond just magazines)? Apple News has featured integration with publisher subscriptions for more than a year now, including for newspapers including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Before it was sold to Apple, Texture was a joint venture from magazine publishers, including Condé Nast, Meredith, and Hearst. The idea was to create a unified product that could stave off the big tech companies — more Hulu for magazines than Netflix for magazines. Will those publishers be okay with whatever revenue share arrangements they worked out when it was an industry effort — and when it reached a much smaller market than “preinstalled on every iPhone and iPad”?

And if it does expand to newspapers or other paywalled media, will Apple be able to figure out a pricing tier that could make sense for the biggest players? The Post, Journal, and New York Times all charge more than Texture’s current total price for most of their individual digital subscriptions. Can they offer a subset of their content that would make sense? Could Apple offer multiple pricing tiers? (Texture used to do this, charging five bucks a month more if you wanted weekly magazines like The New Yorker, Time, and Sports Illustrated included in your bundle. But it eventually collapsed the two tiers into one.)

We’ll have to wait and see.

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