Is there any company on Earth that has historically received as much fawning media coverage as Apple? The launch of each new iPhone, for example, has long been reported with breathless excitement by even the most staid news organizations, as though Apple smartphones represent some profound boon to humanity.
Apple’s deeper foray into services in addition to products may mark a turning point. There are suggestions that the tech giant’s newly announced plans to charge U.S. customers $10 a month for a bundle of magazines and news websites isn’t exactly the friendly helping hand to the news industry that Apple is claiming it is.
Apple has assembled some of the biggest news and magazine publishers in the United States for a service it’s calling News+, essentially a digital newsstand. In Canada, the cost will be $13 a month, and will include Canadian magazines and the Toronto Star in its offerings.
At the recent launch, Apple played a video about the importance of news reporters and photographers, with onscreen text that read: “Quality journalism matters.”
But the absence of the two biggest newspapers in the U.S., the New York Times and the Washington Post, shines a spotlight on some of the trouble spots with Apple’s latest move. Essentially, third-party distribution means publishers risk losing control over their own product.
"We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else," Mark Thompson, the CEO of The New York Times Company, told Reuters. "We're also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else's journalism."
Others also balked. Of particular concern is the whopping 50 per cent cut of revenue that Apple is purportedly demanding, though it hasn’t commented publicly on the terms.
It also seems the news companies on board are rendering their own subscription options utterly unnecessary. Why would anyone sign up for a newspaper subscription with News+ blasting open a huge hole in their site paywalls?
So are Apple’s latest moves truly a good thing for consumers or the news business? Or is it simply aimed at Apple-fying the world?
No one using a non-Apple device will have access to the News+ content, unlike how it worked with the company’s previous Texture newsstand service that could be accessed by anyone with the app.
This week’s launch also featured a host of new initiatives and products aimed at making Apple even mightier. That includes the new Apple credit card, with its many sweeteners, including cash-back rewards, scant penalties on missed payments and a privacy pledge on purchases. Once again, however, non-Apple customers need not apply; you must have an Apple device for the card’s app and customer support, and Apple Pay to get cash-back rewards. In other words, Apple Card users must be very active participants in the Apple ecosystem.
Since the birth of the iPhone, Apple has long been a disruptor, often brilliantly so. Like few other companies, it’s arguably changed the way we live, work and interact with others to become one of the most valuable public corporations in the world. Apple’s staggering success is every entrepreneur’s dream.
The company has also received deserved kudos for the efforts it’s made to protect its users’ privacy. CEO Tim Cook has issued a call for comprehensive U.S. privacy measures.
But, among other things, Apple is now going to curate the news we read, and make a fortune doing so by charging already struggling news organizations a huge premium. It wants to be in our wallets by creating a credit card so attractive it might convince any holdouts to climb aboard the Apple juggernaut.
The tech giant’s message earlier this week seemed to be “we’re on your side” as it announced its latest moves. But that’s only if you live on Planet Apple and pay the prices they’re charging.