It looks increasingly likely that Apple’s first major product announcement of 2019 will be related to services, and specifically the possible launch of a news division as a result of the acquisition of Texture in March 2018.
The idea of a subscription to access news is interesting: some of us already use aggregation services of various types such as feed readers or algorithmic recommendation systems, but these types of tools remain the preserve of the tech savvy and are unlikely to be adopted en masse. Google News had around five million users worldwide at the height of its popularity and while companies such as Feedly, Flipboard, Refind and others are enjoying growth, most people continue to access their news through social networks or by trawling through individual news sites.
Google could also pose problems for Apple: in the event that the EU’s absurd copyright proposals come into law, the company might consider withdrawing Google News from across Europe, as it did in Spain over similar issues. The company says paying the media to link to their news is a betrayal of internet neutrality, and although some in the company are downplaying the possibility, others see it as a potential disaster.
Apple’s proposal reflects its philosophy: access to news but rather than being a public service with no advertising and based on user information to segment their interests, it would be financed by a monthly subscription. Such a service would be convenient and knowing Apple, well-designed and attractive, based on recommendation algorithms and directed at people who value their privacy and do not want to share information about their interests, in contrast to Google’s, which would keep its service free in exchange for information. So far, however, the media’s response suggests it won’t play ball and will demand not only a bigger share of revenue, but also access to the information of people that read their news, which Apple could not accept.
Some commentators have suggested that Apple has leaked the price of the service and the proposed revenue share as an initial negotiating position that would see it prepared to agree to 30% -70%. There will be few news organizations out there that will see Apple’s idea as a lifeline
Is the media in a position to reject such offers, bring about the exit of Google News from the European Union and, in addition, demand more money from Apple? In theory, yes but doing so simply reflects a total inability to understand the digital world in the hope of finding a better suitor in a world in which the entry barriers to providing information are tumbling: payment walls only seem to work for a few organizations with something special to offer, and it seems unlikely that most people would bother paying for access to mainstream news content they can find for free.
March 25 should provide a better idea of how Apple’s initiative is developing and the response by the world’s big media organizations, which the company will already have reached some kind of agreements.
(En español, aquí)