Commentary

Magazine Publishers Aren't Feeling Apple's Texture

Apple’s plans for a digital magazine newsstand that charges one flat fee for access is a terrible idea.

The iPhone maker is planning a relaunch of Texture, the magazine app it bought in March, Bloomberg News reported. Texture provides unlimited access to more than 200 magazines, giving subscribers a wide choice of publications for $10 a month.

Texture is even described as the “Netflix of magazines” — as if that’s a virtue.

Netflix’s business model has never been proven during any era when the Federal Reserve wasn’t kowtowing to Wall Street and flooding markets with cheap greenbacks.

One day, the Fed is going to get really desperate about pumping up asset values to spur economic growth. The central bank will not only buy Netflix’s stock directly, it will cover the monthly subscription fees for millions of subscribers.

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Like Texture, Netflix is basically a content aggregator and intermediary between content creators and their audiences. The streaming service is like any broadcast network or cable channel — but without the ads.

The paid-TV industry is responding by adopting technology to divide channels into ever-thinner bundles costing as little as a Netflix subscription. If the trend continues, viewers will demand the same selectivity from over-the-top services like Netflix that they seek from paid-TV channels.

Why get a Netflix subscription to see Vox’s hokey series “Explained” when you only want to watch “Stranger Things”? In other words, cord-cutters eventually will cut the Netflix cord.

The same market dynamic applies to magazine content, which may be a problem for Apple’s Texture project.

Streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music aren’t comparable to Apple’s Texture project. Most musicians want to perform live, and their recordings are a loss leader to drive ticket sales. Long gone are the days when bands like The Beatles could expect to print money by playing in a studio rather than going on tour.

Some publishers are going to assert they add more value to a Texture subscription than others. The New York Times will want to be paid more than the Times-Picuyane.

Also, publishers don’t want to cannibalize other sources subscription revenue.

Finally, they’ll want to keep brand identities that don’t get subsumed in Apple’s soupy pit of bland typeset on a generic white background. Men aren’t reading Playboy for the articles, despite every claim to the contrary.

What will publishers be willing to sacrifice to reach 1.3 billion Apple devices?

Led by Eddy Cue and former Conde Nast executive Liz Schimel, Apple's team is making the case that Texture will produce enough revenue to supplant other sources.

That may be, but every publisher should have a well-drafted exit clause.

1 comment about "Magazine Publishers Aren't Feeling Apple's Texture".
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  1. Richard Reisman from Teleshuttle Corporation, December 14, 2018 at 11:35 a.m.

    This totally ignores the the consumer value proposition.  Who wants to figure out what channels to watch and subscribe to them in advance? -- at prices that will total up to demand more share of wallet than one has -- when the beauty of digital distribution is the infinite jukebox?  Who wants to subscribe to specific music labels when they can subscribe to Spotify? Who wants to subscribe to just a handful of publications or spend a fortune? The answer is more consumer-first, win-win value propostions, whether for individual publishers or for aggregators.

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