Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The unlamented demise of the Apple Newsstand and the uncertain prospects of replacement

Magazine publishers have pretty consistently been wary of, or disappointed by, the Apple Newsstand. It was created -- and sold to the industry -- as a place where readers could search out and purchase digital versions of their favourite titles. Or, their favourite digital titles. 

Sometimes the Newsstand worked and sold some subs, but more often publishers complained that, lost in the jungle of thousands of apps out there, readers couldn't find their titles either through deliberate search or serendipitously. 

Well now that's no longer an issue since Apple is quietly killing the Newsstand and replacing it this fall with a content aggregating app called Apple News, a sort of Flipboard clone. It was so indifferent to its Newsstand and thought so little of its participants that it didn't even bother to mention its demise.

A column in Publishing Executive  by Ron Matejko says that Apple's decision.amounts to a mercy killing. 
"The end of Newsstand amounts to the mama bird kicking its baby off the tree branch to see if it can fly on its own, as digital magazines will now join the general public in the iTunes App Store. 
"Discoverability was a major issue for publications in a world of a few thousand apps. Swimming in the same pool as hundreds of thousands of other choices in the App Store will push all but the top titles further into needle-in-the-haystack territory."
Apple hopes publishers will benefit from ad sales: 
“Earn 100% of the revenue from ads you sell," it says "and 70% when iAd sells ads for you. iAd provides campaign management, targeting and reporting capabilities that help drive your business.” 
One Canadian publishing insider said
"I'd like to know how Apple News's ad-supported model will pay off vs. the paid circulation (read: high engagement) model we've built with our digital magazine editions. Likely they'll run as complementary products with complementary sources of revenue, but [if] Apple News is the only place anyone is looking, that could force us away from reader-paid content altogether." 
 A story in Nieman Lab says Apple Newsstand was launched with promise but quickly turned into a ghetto where news apps went to die.
"There’s no guarantee Apple News will be a big hit; Google Currents, probably the closest analog up to now, was a flop. But the broader narrative is clear: Individual news apps and individual news brands aren’t the primary point of contact with news any more. They’re raw material, feeding into broader platforms. The loss of power for publishers in that exchange is obvious; the potential benefits remain mostly undiscovered."

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