Apple to Tweak News Plus Subscription App to Appease Publishers

Publishers report underwhelming performance in two months following free trial.

Apple to Tweak News Plus Subscription App to Appease Publishers

Despite a lot of fanfare and publicity, Apple News +, the news and magazine subscription service launched by Apple in March, isnt as popular as anticipated. As a result, Apple is planning tweaks to the three-monthly subscription service, reports Business Insider. Apple News + is the subscription component of the free Apple News app. The News + subscription is a revamped version of Texture, the magazine subscription app service that Apple acquired last year. After a free one-month trial, News + subscribers can access more than 300 publications for $9.99 a month in the U.S. and $12.99 a month in Canada.

At launch, Apple called News + an immersive magazine and news reading experience, offering subscribers access to glossy magazines like O, The Oprah Magazine, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Toronto Star and digital sites like theSkimm, TechCrunch and The Highlight by Vox.

Apple to Tweak News Plus Subscription App to Appease Publishers

Source: Apple News Plus Subscription Sign-Up Screen

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It is not clear from a search of the News + subscription home screen, or an alphabetical search of publications, which newspapers are included as part of the subscription. For example, WSJ Magazine appears in the News & Politics section, but we couldnt find any mention of the Wall Street Journal newspaper, the Los Angeles Times or the Toronto Star, or any other newspaper for that matter.

Business Insider reports that publishers are not seeing the results they expected from Apple News +, in spite of early reports from Apple that, within the first two days of launch, Apple News + had 200,000 subscribers. This is particularly disappointing, because they agreed to a 50/50 revenue share to be a part of the subscription service. Other publishers like the New York Times and the Washington Post have opted out of the service, reports The Times.

Publishers who spoke to Business Insider said the subscription revenue was underwhelming based on the two months of data theyd received following the one-month free trial. One publisher said they were expecting 10 times the revenue that the Texture magazine app had generated within its first year, but that is not what is happening.

Why does this initial push seem to be failing? Business Insider and the publishing executives they spoke too gave a number of potential reasons for the slow start: lack of promotion, lack of clarity and lack of transparency, all of which are deal killers in the subscription world.

  • Lack of promotion: Publishers are saying that, except for the launch, the product has not been adequately promoted.
  • Lack of clarity: Apple News app readers cannot easily differentiate between what news they get for free from a much wider range of news sources versus what is available through the News + app.
  • Lack of transparency: Apple doesnt seem to be transparent about this whole process. If they are tweaking Apple News +, what changes can we expect? How are they working with publishers to improve the subscription service? Are they seeking subscriber input? Were there were really 200K subscribers in the first two days, or were subscribers carried over from Texture.

At this point, there seem to be far more questions than answers.

Apple to Tweak News Plus Subscription App to Appease Publishers

June 30

Insider Take:

As an iPhone user and someone who occasionally scans through the free News feed, it is not clear to me why anyone would subscribe to Apple News +, unless they are an avid magazine reader. The free News app gives readers access to many news sites including the New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Politico, TIME and ESPN. However, I dont find any of those same sites in the News + app.

All I can find in the subscription app are magazines and featured stories from the Wall Street Journal. I cant stories from any of the other newspapers or digital sites that Apple promised at launch. There is not enough differentiation between the two apps – and the free app has far more news content than the subscription app. If News is what you are looking for, the free app delivers. News + does not.

For magazine readers, the News + app is probably a good deal, though not much different from Texture or Readly. If Apple really wants to make a go of the News + subscription service and wants to forge strong relationships with news publishers to get more to sign on, it has a long way to go. Minor tweaks wont cut it. Apple needs to make a dedicated effort to beef up this app and to satisfy the needs of potential publishers, or it should stop touting the app as News.