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How Apple News+ kills the relationship between magazine and reader

If we learned anything this week, it’s that this is not the time for anyone in the media or publishing game to be taking a vacation. The media industry as we know it is under a complete redevelopment. While publishers used to fight to get the scoop before their competition. Now, they must fight to find the best business model of the future and hold onto the relationship with their readers.

Apple launched the groundbreaking Apple News+ subscription service this week, which for $9.99 / month includes access to more than 300 magazines. A no-brainer value to everyone with an iPhone, who’s getting $8,000 (the price of each individual magazine for a year) worth of publication subscriptions for about $120.

Apple’s going to make a lot of money from this service. With direct access to 1 billion potential readers whom they can send push notifications to at any time of the day – they’ve got everything they need to build a habit and onboard people to this subscription. And since they’re taking a 50% cut of the revenues, they’re going to do more damage with this than they did with the App Store.

The future isn’t quite as bright for the 300 media outlets that joined:

“You’re not generating subscribers [with Apple News+], you’re getting revenue. It’s going down a rabbit hole.”

Digiday

Publishers are going to lose the relationships they once had with their subscribers, while Apple benefits from being that cool, new friend that buys stuff for everyone else. Every story publishers create will now have to fight with their competitors and also magazines who weren’t considered competition before.

As Morgan Housel points out in his article “Different Kinds of Information”, there are 8 distinct types of information that each serve a unique purpose:

  • Useful but expiring.
  • Useful and permanent.
  • Irrelevant to me but relevant to someone whose decisions are relevant to me.
  • Irrelevant but a window in how other people think, which is relevant in itself.
  • Useless but usefully entertaining.
  • Useful only when combined with other information.
  • Irrelevant in all circumstances.
  • Requires immediate action.

On a daily basis, Time magazine (information types: #1, #2, #3) may find themselves competing with People Magazine (information types: #4, #5, #6, #7) for the same eyeballs in the Apple News+ app. Considering Apple controls the editorial agenda and where stories get placed, publishers should be very concerned.

The Need for Curatorial Affairs.

The only thing I’m particularly worried about with Apple News+ is the sheer volume of this service. It’s a great feature to have more than 300 media sources included when they’re selling this product. However, ensuring that the user gets the best news experience will be very difficult.

In this day of over-information, publishers that provide quality curation will beat out the ones who focus solely on the quantity of publishings (unless you’re BuzzFeed, of course).

One company that got this element of curation right is Robinhood – the no-fee stock trading app – who bought MarketSnacks this week. MarketSnacks, which is a financial newsletter and podcast, fits perfectly in the existing Robinhood audience. Together, they’re effectively curating an entire experience from one end to the other. Honestly, I think some of the magazines who joined Apple News+ could explore corporate partnerships like this one, but only if they have a stellar relationship with their audience. Because that’s the true value today.

On the point of curation, I think it would be really cool if Apple News+ could exist as a pseudo social network, in very much the same way that Medium does. What if each user had the power to create their own “journalistic playlist” for others to follow? This would allow Apple to outsource the job of feed curation while creating a next-generation way of experiencing the news with friends and digital acquaintances.

Overall, Apple News+ is not the last shakeup we’re going to see in the media industry. Amazon just announced they’re working on a video news app for the Fire TV, which could upend the 24-hour TV news we know and love (slash hate). Acting swiftly and strategically in the Future of Media is the only way to survive. Especially as legacy technology companies begin taking large bets in this space.

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