Apple to launch a premium news subscription service, report says

More details are out this morning about Apple’s plans for Texture, the digital newsstand business it acquired last month. According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple is planning to launch its own premium news subscription service in an upgraded version of the Apple News app, arriving sometime in the next year. The service will split revenues between Apple and magazine publishers, but details regarding that split were not available.

Today, however, Apple takes a 15 percent cut on subscriptions sold in the App Store.

Bloomberg also noted that around twenty Texture employees were cut post acquisition, while the remaining staff and technology is being integrated with the Apple News team.

In the past, Apple offered magazines and newspaper subscriptions through its former Newsstand app, and through Apple News, which replaced it. However, these are currently sold individually. Texture, meanwhile, operated more like a “Netflix for magazine publishing,” where readers were able to access around 200 magazines for a monthly fee of $9.99. For $14.99 per month, the subscription would include some weekly magazine titles, as well.

Before Apple, Texture was owned by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Rogers Media and KKR.

Assuming Bloomberg is correct in reporting that Texture will lead to a similar subscription-based model for magazines in Apple News, it raises some concerns. Apple notoriously likes to control news about itself, as part of maintaining its public image. This heavy-handed strategy means that Apple won’t respond to some day-to-day press inquiries, unless it’s to set the record straight on unflattering reports. It also likes to pass counterpoints along to favored reporters, at times, in order to quietly get its viewpoints some ink, without its name attached to the reporting. Years ago, it sent police to break down a reporter’s door to regain access to a lost iPhone prototype, that the news org had come to acquire.

While not all magazine publishers are focused on “news,” those who do cover tech and Apple specifically, could become uncomfortable with also relying on Apple for subscription revenues. Would any negative reporting affect their standing with the company? Would Apple kick them out of the subscription program, if news became unfavorable? For a company that so tightly protects its reputation, it’s not an outlandish concern.

In addition, publishers have already learned the downfalls associated with relying on a platform’s reach and distribution to help keep them afloat, by working with Facebook. The gave up control, only to find their content downgraded in a Facebook algorithm change. That specific scenario doesn’t translate to Apple’s News platform, of course. But publishers may find themselves unable to resist Apple’s call to participate, given its potential to pull in millions of subscribers.