Should You Pay For Apple News+? Warning: It Has Issues

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The new Apple News+ service seems like a bonanza for news junkies and magazine aficionados who get access to nearly 300 periodicals for just $9.99 a month. But would-be subscribers need to take a close look before plunking down money because Apple News+ still has a few issues.

I would consider a subscription, especially since Family Sharing is included. At this point I do not like the “nag” messages that I get with the default news sources provided when you start using it. It’s like bumping into the paywall with every click. For me it’s a disincentive tp use the app despite the fact that a lot of the content is actually free of charge.

The biggest attraction of Apple News+ to publishers may be building up their total circulation to help them sell advertising. I used to work in the trade magazine industry, and they rely entirely on advertising for their income. Many other big-circulation magazines, like the New Yorker, also rely heavily on advertising; that’s how they offer cheap subscriptions.

Frankly, as a long-time Texture subscriber, I’m very disappointed with Apple News. Since you used The New Yorker in your review, let me note that Talk of the Town and Comment are no longer included. With Texture, I got a replica of the magazine that allowed me to “read” it in its entirety.

Texture has been discontinued, so there really isn’t any other option other than Apple News. For me, it’s a no-go. This app needs to be more Texture-esque, with back issues and the complete content of any magazine I’m reading.

Great cautionary tale, Julio.

Though I’ve really enjoyed Apple News since the beginning (and been stumped why Apple ever allowed the Marzipan version to go live on the Mac!), I’ve been comparing-and-contrasting it with FlipBoard for some time.

FlipBoard is a much more logically laid out user interface and I’ve always loved that I could upload my OPML file to get RSS feeds from any site or blog that offers it. So I’ve added all of my feeds in to the mix so I can read the curated selections by FlipBoard as well as have one app for all of my reading.

Sometimes I get frustrated with Apple’s recommendation engine that starts showing me People magazine articles since I happened to choose one or two to read in some previous browsing session. So many times I’ve found myself so befuddled over the availability and presentation of articles by some publication, all while seeking a specific one I’d read previously.

Here’s hoping Apple will quickly accelerate development of News+.

Direct subscriptions needn’t be expensive, either; a New York Times digital-only subscription was just $1 per week the last time I checked, and I got a similar $1-per-week deal from the Washington Post through June.

I have regularly priced digital-only subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Post’s “Basic Digital” sub costs me $9.99+tax per month at the Apple App Store. The Times digital sub is not through Apple; it costs me $20+tax every 4 weeks.

I’m just posting these numbers for others to compare with. There may be ways to get these newspapers cheaper on an on-going basis.

Keep in mind that publications, print and digital, need revenue to stay in business. Publishers bring in little, if any, revenue from Apple News. I’ve read that The NY Times, and some other publications have been able to grow subscription numbers via the nagging messages in News. I think that’s why The NY Times and Washington Post haven’t signed up for News+.

News+ publications will generate some revenue from the $9.99 fee and advertising. Like Apple News, it will keep advertising, esp. the annoying auto play stuff, at a minimum. And tracking too.

You can’t delete downloaded magazines.

Yes, that’s odd but true. There’s no way to delete a magazine issue you’ve manually downloaded, a fact I confirmed with applecare. Issues that are automatically downloaded self-delete after 30 days, they say.

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Sounds like some of the problems are Apple’s fault for not providing much in the way of assistance.

Here’s a reason why a lot of publishers will probably stick with News+. Keep in mind that Condé Nast is one of the biggest and most prestigious publishers, and that every name removed from a masthead means a lot more people who weren’t acknowledged in print also got axed:

Here’s a good dollars and cents analysis that sheds some light about why Apple has invested so much in the news business:

Why so many publications have already signed up for News+:

“That $4.7 billion is nearly as much as the $5.1 billion brought in by the United States news industry as a whole from digital advertising last year — and the News Media Alliance cautioned that its estimate for Google’s income was conservative. For one thing, it does not count the value of the personal data the company collects on consumers every time they click on an article like this one.”

If they counted the revenue from retargeting and sales, $4.7 billion would be a drop in the bucket.

I can see why publishers would be desperate for any sort of income stream, but speaking as one, I’ve never seen any partnership arrangement that actually provided any significant amount of revenue. If TidBITS didn’t have direct reader support, we wouldn’t exist. I’m actually really happy about that, since it makes it easy to turn down proposals from various ad networks that want to crud up our site and track our readers.

I had to sign up for a trial to work on an article about it, and I don’t think I used it a single time before canceling. I just can’t bring myself to care.