The Netflix of News: What does Apple News’ latest update spell for publishers?
According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, Apple is set to announce a bundled subscription service which offers access to unlimited content from partner publishers, for a set monthly fee. In effect, this would enable Apple News users to bypass the need to carry multiple paid for subscriptions with individual news publishers.
From a brand positioning point of view, this move signifies another advancement by Apple towards monopolising ‘share of time’ amongst contemporary audiences; ensuring Apple maintains as many touch points in their lives vs other fast-diversifying businesses like Amazon. Coupled with this, at a business operations level, the motivation for Apple is clear; all traffic under this model is ring-fenced within the Apple News ecosystem thus giving them absolute control of user data and allocation of advertising revenue. As Ben Thompson notes in his article on Stratechary.com, this may seem like a risk for publishers who may fear losing brand visibility or even cannibalisation of their direct traffic. However, it is worth noting that Apple news has an ever growing readership (currently tracking at circa 90 million people). This could potentially help many news publishers to maintain relevance with a digital first audience spending the majority of their time with an Apple device.
The proposed remuneration model to be employed by Apple News is also noteworthy. Revenue will be distributed to publishers according to reader engagement metrics, such as page views and time spent with certain articles. Perhaps this new model of remuneration will begin to reward quality journalism and true user engagement, rather than the model of chasing clicks with sensationalist news across other online platforms.
In the context of falling print circulations, as evidenced by the latest ABC results, Apple News will undoubtedly present publishers with a chance to increase traffic towards their content. Even if they may see short term losses to advertising revenue, ultimately the reward in scale through partnering with Apple News will be worthwhile.
It will be interesting to see how Apple will balance commercial gains with the moral obligation entrenched in news aggregation. We have already seen how Facebook have tried to navigate this in fraught political contexts, hopefully Apple will learn from this and continue to uphold editorial integrity without creating echo chambers within their service.
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