Commentary

Apple's Expanded Promotions For Digital Newsstand Is Welcome

Listening to news radio this week, I was astounded to hear a commercial for Apple News+, the iPhone maker's digital newsstand said to have only a few hundred thousand subscribers. The radio spot touted all the great features of the service, especially its expanded audio content.

It's heartening to hear Apple put more promotional muscle behind Apple News+, which charges $10 a month for access to hundreds of magazines. The company doesn't disclose how many people have signed up for the service since its launch 18 months ago, with the last press reports suggesting about 200,000 subscribers. Apple shares some of the subscription revenue with publishers.

The radio spot touted several features of Apple News+, including a service that streams audio versions of magazine and newspaper stories read by professional voice actors. The audio stories include selections from Esquire, Essence, GQ, Sports Illustrated, Time, Vanity Fair and Vogue, along with newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

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Those audio versions so far have varied in length from nine minutes for a Town & Country story titled "Can the Rich buy a Normal Life?" to almost an hour for the Atavistmagazine's feature titled "Hong Kong's Battle for Freedom."

Apple's promotional activity for Apple News+ is another sign of how the company plans to expand the audience for the service. The company is said to be working on content bundles that offer savings when customers combine services such as Apple Music and Apple TV+ with offerings like its Apple Arcade gaming platform.

The company claims to have 125 million users of Apple News, its free news aggregation app with more limited selection of content. Converting those users into paying subscribers of Apple News+ likely will require greater incentives, including discounts and access to exclusive content.

I'd also like to see more dynamic content in Apple News+ aside from static magazine pages. A handful of titles have added video covers and links to shopping websites. There is also a possibility to develop a wider range of interactive features for the service.

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