Apple is now trying to enter the publishing business. Recently, in the month of March, the company acquired Texture, which is a subscription-based magazine reader. The platform charges a flat fee to read all the content you like. Texture already includes some great publishing like Wired, National Geographic, People, and The New Yorker. According to a report by Recode, it is now going to add traditional newspapers like The New York Times.
The perfect example is Facebook’s Instant Articles
Facebook introduced Instant Articles in which publishers granted control to Facebook in exchange for added reach. While you allow the world’s largest social network to access your content and track your visitors, you get the opportunity to receive millions of new visitors. However, the ad revenue system of Instant Articles didn’t really go well.
The report by Columbia Journalism Review suggests that more than half of all publishers that used Instant Articles have now abandoned it. However, this was sorted out in a really short time. But now, Apple is going to try the same thing all over again.
Publishers generally rely on small amount of pieces of the pie to fund huge operations. So, finding distributions can help them in that concern. But, for this, the platform offering it must have a plan to make up the revenue loss that comes by turning away from their own monetization strategies. This includes subscription or ad-supported models.
For instance, The New York Times left Facebook’s Instant Articles in 2017 because it relied on subscriptions, and not clicks. Similarly, The Wall Street Journal also seems to have ceased using it. The Guardian left it last August. It is unclear whether National Geographic, BBC News, and others are using publishing tools at all. But, their majority posts suggest they are no longer using it.
Apple has money and the network to attract publishers. But, its 1.3 billion active devices doesn’t indicate 1.3 billion active readers. Even if Apple makes Texture completely free, not everyone would take advantage of it. Apple’s stats suggest that only 60 million people use Apple News each month.
So, only five percent users of 1.3 billion Apple devices in the world take advantage of Apple News. Though it comes pre-installed in every version of its OS since iOS 9, the number of users remains the same.
Five percent, that is 60 million users can be considered good number of users. But, publishers have to face competition not only from the other publishers, but also from the social media apps, games, YouTube, etc.
At last, the cost of shifting business models cannot be recovered from the added reach. Also, the monetization structure loses its reputation with time.
The perfect example for this is Facebook. The company takes 30 percent for ads it sells. If you do not consider all the aspects, ads by publishers are pure profit. But sometimes, even if publishers invest millions for an Instant Articles-specific content strategy, they fail.
The deal can attract many users who were never willing to subscribe to publishers and pay for it. But at last, the deal seems to be worthless.
Texture uses a similar model to Spotify. It allows users to view content on the app, with or without digital ads. However, it can monetize the content it sees fit. It provides a monthly $10 subscription. For payouts, it has tracking systems to determine all the publications and posts that were responsible for the most views.
This gave a rise to clickbait on the internet. The quality of the content you see on the internet is degraded in most cases. Also, ease of creating your own website contributed to the rise of clickbait.
I believe that the situation of publishers is not going to be improved by competing for a limited set of eyes, and getting paid based on number of viewers that view their content within the app. So, if you are a publisher, simply avoid such programs.