Publisher Says Jury is Still Out on Apple News+

When Apple News+ launched earlier this year, the company hoped it would provide an “immersive magazine and news reading experience” that merited the ongoing monthly subscription.

To be sure, around 200,000 subscribers signed up for a first free month, yet publisher revenue was reported to be “underwhelming” three month later, earning Apple News+ a big minus from the publishing world.

Eight months in and some publishers are still skeptical according to William Gallagher in Apple Insider.

“Roger Lynch, CEO of publisher Conde Nast, says its magazines —including Vanity Fair and Conde Nast Traveler —have yet to see the success on Apple News+ that was expected,” Gallagher writes. “The company, whose titles regularly reach 84 million readers across print and digital services, had an initial burst of new subscribers but that interest failed to continue.”

That initial burst can likely be attributed to the free trial period, and apparently consumers are consumer news and magazine media the same way they binge on entertainment. Nearly five years ago the “Netflix of magazines” trial balloon was tossed out by Magzter, in a bid to create an all-you-can-read model similar to Netflix or Spotify. The problem then, and likely still now, is that we just don’t want that much digital news content from a mélange of untested sources.

As for Lynch, he remains somewhat skeptical. “I hope Apple News+ is wildly successful,” he said at a Recode conference. “[However] I think the jury is out.”

News is a highly selective thing. We tend to develop long-term relationships with our chosen, trusted news and magazine media, not at all the same way we binge on a new series until the next thing comes along. And that’s a good thing. We don’t want to binge on the news; we want to read in-depth stories from names we trust.

It’s not surprising publishers are finding lackluster success with Apple News+. Even if it’s bringing in a bit of revenue, we have to consider the cost of engaging with readers on a third-party platform instead of directly. Lynch joins other publishers who are unsure the service will work for them as is.

“Lynch joined Conde Nast in April, so after the firm negotiated terms with Apple for the service, but says the publisher could ultimately quit Apple News+ if necessary,” Gallagher notes.

“Over time, we have options,” Lynch said.

Let’s hope they consider those options carefully, with an eye toward real engagement with direct readers.