Apple formally unveiled its new subscription news service today, a tab within its existing Apple News app that is designed to unlock access to premium magazines and a few national newspapers for $10 per month. It's not Apple's first stab at curating news content for its iPhone, iPad, and Mac customers, nor is it the first attempt by a leading tech company to design a news experience for the digital era. But it's the first time Apple is charging a subscription fee for the news it is aggregating in its app.
The new service, called Apple News+ (pronounced "plus"), will live within the current Apple News app. Right now the News app has three tabs at the bottom: Today, Morning Digest, and Channel. With an iOS and macOS update rolling out today, that will change to say Today, News+, and Following. Today is focused on the day's news, Following refers to the media outlets and categories people follow, and News+ is the subscription service.
Apple promises a human-curated news experience and insists that it will keep people's reading habits totally private—both from Apple and from advertisers.
Roger Rosner, Apple's vice president of applications, said at a media event today that more than 300 magazines will be available as part of the $10 per month service. "It's the only place where you'll find all of these magazines in a single package," he said. These magazines include The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, Outside, Sunset, Bon Appetit, Golf, Marie Claire, National Geographic, WIRED, New York Magazine, and Popular Science. In addition, digital-first properties like TechCrunch, Vox.com, and the newsletter service The Skimm will also contribute content in some way to the paywalled service.
One of Apple's distinct advantages—in addition to its tremendous cash chest, something that some media properties are sorely missing right now—is its prowess in mobile design. Wyatt Mitchell, design director for Apple’s applications (and WIRED alum), demonstrated on stage today at the Steve Jobs Theater how some magazines will have "living" images within the News+ app. National Geographic, for example, might have a video snippet of the Sydney, Australia, skyline as one of its covers. Apple is also promising a human-curated news experience, and it insists that it will keep people's reading habits totally private—both from Apple and from advertisers.
However, the News+ app's reach will be limited in some ways. It's available only in the US and Canada to start, with launches in Australia and the UK expected later this year. It also appears to be available only on iOS devices, which was the case with the previous version of Apple News. Lastly, it's important to note that not all content from participating magazines and newspapers will appear in the app; Apple will rely more heavily on feature stories and photo essays for its News+ curation.
Apple’s news subscription service wasn't exactly a secret before Monday's unveiling. In 2018 the company acquired Texture, a digital news delivery and news subscription service that had been created by a consortium of big-name publishers, including Hearst Magazines, Meredith Corporation, and Condé Nast (which publishes WIRED). Apple’s senior vice president of software and services said at the time that the company was committed to “quality journalism from trusted sources.” As Apple formalized plans for its new premium news service, information began to leak about the project.
What has been unknown is exactly what this new, “premium” news service would look and feel like. The terms for publishers have also been a point of contention for some; newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post are not a part of the service. In some cases, Apple is reportedly taking as much as 50 percent of the revenue from new subscriptions sold through the app, a significantly higher share than the 30 percent of revenue it takes from app developers (which has also been contentious).
However, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Star, Canada's largest daily paper, have signed on to be a part of Apple News+.
Today, Apple also announced a new credit card service called Apple Card, a new videogame service called Apple Arcade, and a new streaming service for Apple TV, Mac, and smart TVs. The event is still ongoing, so watch for coverage about the other services here on WIRED.