Apple News’s Radical Approach: Humans Over Machines

New York Times:

There are ambitious plans for the product. Apple lets publishers run ads in its app and it helps some sign up new subscribers, taking a 30 percent cut of the revenue. Soon, the company aims to bundle access to dozens of magazines in its app for a flat monthly fee, sort of like Netflix for news, according to people familiar with the plans, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Apple also hopes to package access to a few daily-news publications, like The Times, The Post and The Wall Street Journal, into the app, the people said.

Apple’s executives grandly proclaim that they want to help save journalism. “There is this deep understanding that a thriving free press is critical for an informed public, and an informed public is critical for a functioning democracy, and that Apple News can play a part in that,” Ms. Kern said.

But there are early signs that Apple is not the industry’s savior. Many publishers have made little on ads in Apple News, and Apple’s 30 percent cut of subscriptions it helps sell does not help. Having experienced Google’s and Facebook’s disruption of their industry, many publications are wary of Apple, according to conversations with executives from nine news organizations, many of whom declined to comment on the record for fear of upsetting the trillion-dollar corporation. Some were optimistic that Apple could be a better partner than other tech giants, but were leery of making the company the portal to their readers.

Instead of bleating about Apple’s cut of the subscriptions, why on earth don’t major newspapers like the New York Times and the Guardian form their own one-stop news shop and sell subscriptions direct?  It would be an easy upsell for their own subscription base – “You’re a Guardian subscriber.  We can offer you a 80% off a New York Times subscription.”

The real value that Apple News gives me is discovery.  It does a better job of identifying (“surfacing”) Guardian articles for me to read than the Guardian’s own app.  That should worry the Guardian a lot (yet the Guardian journalist I mentioned it to was quite unperturbed).