Apple News+ Gets a Big Minus from Publishers

It was five years ago when both Facebook and Apple decided to become de facto news publishers, FB with Instant Articles and Apple with Apple News.

It wasn’t long before publishers started ditching Instant Articles in large numbers as engagement dropped and revenue promises failed to materialize. Apple News got off to a less than stellar start too.

Now Business Insider reports that the Apple News+, launched earlier this year as a subscription-based “immersive magazine and news reading experience,” is falling flat.

Apparently, consumers don’t stream the news the same way they binge on entertainment.

“Apple gave away Plus for free for the first month, and in its first two days, it reportedly had about 200,000 subscribers, which is about what Texture had,” writes Lucia Moses in Business Insider. “But three months in, publishing execs who spoke for this article said the subscription revenue they’d gotten from the service was underwhelming based on two months of data after the trial ended.”

Moses reports that publishers have called the financial return “underwhelming,” with one saying their revenue so far is “one-twentieth of what [Apple] said.”

According to Michael Allison in MS Power User, there are a few possible reasons why this isn’t taking off: nobody really likes magazine content in static PDF format (we all know how well that worked on the iPad); and there’s a lot of suspicion that Apple maybe isn’t going into this wholeheartedly. But Allison thinks there’s a larger issue with this style of news.

“Apple’s News program may indeed get better in the future, but all you can read news services have never bode well for publishing companies who are often at the mercy of the platform owner and rarely build relationships with their readers,” Allison writes. “They are simply one disposable source among others.”

News is a highly selective thing. We tend to develop long-term relationships with our chosen, trusted new media, not at all the same way we binge on a new series until the next thing comes along.

I said it in January of 2015: nobody’s going to be the Netflix of magazines. Or news in general, for that matter. For publishers, buying into the walled garden approach stymies that relationship-building process and ultimately isn’t worth the effort.