Back in the day, Apple News was launched as a replacement for Newsstand. The enriched news application aimed to provide better-curated content from publishing houses across the globe and a personalized feed for its readers.
Being released with iOS 9 alongside Apple Music, the News service didn’t get much limelight at the beginning.
In March 2019 however, Apple News+ was rolled out for $9.99 a month to offer premium magazine content in a few selected countries(USA, Canada, and more).
This was an ambitious move by Apple to showcase its shift towards a subscription-based system. Also, it encouraged more media companies and journals to join the News aggregator app for incentives and wider reach.
Fast forward to today and Apple News+ has failed to generate significant subscribers after the initial boost.
In times when most of the people are sheltered at home and glued to their devices, the premium news app has severely underperformed when compared to other Apple services such as TV+ and Arcade.
After the underwhelming response Apple News+ has received it won’t be an overstatement to say that Apple needs to pull the plug from this struggling subscription-based news aggregator platform.
Apple News+ Is Failing Since It Tried Being A Jack Of All Trades For The Reader
From a distance, Apple News+ seems too good a deal to ignore. After all, it encompasses several premium publishing websites including the Wall Street Journal.
Any reader who purchases individual subscriptions for each news magazine would end up paying at least 10X the price Apple is offering.
But what Apple perceived as the biggest advantage of “News Plus” has been stalling its growth since the beginning.
Just like too many cooks spoil the broth, Apple News+ has awfully confused its users by giving them plenty of unrelated contents bundled together.
Eventually, the subscriber feels they’re overpaying. And understandably so, since they subscribed for certain content that they want but it includes a whole bunch of content they don’t want.
Despite best efforts, the content quality of the News app isn’t directly under Apple’s control. For a company that prides itself on building software toolkits, frameworks, and in-house hardware, Apple News+ actually relies on external publications.
This means the News app ends up with a really strange user experience due to a lack of consistency. For instance, there’s a mix of PDF-based and text-based content across different magazines in Apple News+.
Also, there’s a blurred line between premium and free stories, with the former not being distinctly highlighted as such — causing further woes for the reader.
To add more fuel to the misery for readers, the Apple News+ is not ad-free. Yes, the feed does show intrusive advertisements — which is annoying for readers.
No user would expect to pay a subscription fee only to see repetitive ads especially when they can use ad-blockers whilst browsing on the web.
All of this makes Apple News+ so unlike Apple.
The Subscription Service Hasn’t Been Able To Win Publishers Either
OK, even if one ignores the reader’s experience for a moment, Apple News+ hasn’t been a winning proposition for its publishers either.
For the uninitiated, Apple takes 50 percent from each subscription purchase leaving publishers to split the remaining half based on reading time.
Such a huge cut has already put off a few popular news agencies. For example, the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post have pulled out of Apple News.
Besides, publishers have no control over the distribution of their stories on Apple News. Neither can they form a direct relationship with the readers or control the demography.
Worse, Apple’s well thought out plan of distributing ad revenue to their partnered publishers hasn’t panned out the way they’d expected. Advertising was never Apple’s forte and given that they prohibit ad-tracking for targeted campaigns, it comes as no surprise that the CPM rates per ad that publishers earn are paltry.
This actually puts news publishers on Apple News in a conundrum. One on hand, the platform is giving it's content more visibility. Yet the revenue they’re receiving is paltry compared to what they can achieve through their self hosted websites.
Hence, most publishers haven’t fully bought into the subscription system. For example, Wall Street Journal posts only a limited content on Apple News+ with the rest available on their semi-paywall website.
Apple News+ was always an impending disaster as it was uncharted territory for the tech giant. If the news aggregator app had to succeed, Apple had to bring both publishers and readers on board(especially, the former). But Apple has spectacularly failed to do so.
Instead, Apple is greedily trying to kill the publisher’s web traffic and drive it towards their own app with iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur.
Unlike Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple Music(each of which is available in the Apple One individual and family plan), Apple News+ is only a part of Apple One’s premium plan.
After more than two years, the News app is still unavailable in most Asian countries. And it doesn’t look like Apple has plans to scale it globally. In fact, it seems more likely that Apple has given up on its news app and is just hoping that someone uses it with their bundled service plan.
While we don’t see Apple killing their products as often as Google does, yet given how Apple News+ has failed to generate subscribers, I feel it's high time the tech giant puts the curtains on it for the better.
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