One day not too long ago I found myself in a Barnes & Noble forking over close to $50 at the cash register for a handful of magazines that I had neglected to check the prices on.
I never buy magazines anymore, but needed some light reading to kill some time in a hospital, and had no idea that the glossy food pubs that my mom loves were close $10 a pop. We burned through the mags in less than a day. I read a few of them twice.
So when Apple announced Monday that its new Apple News+ subscription service would deliver more than 300 magazines directly to my phone for $9.99 a month, I thought: What a bargain! I plan to sign up immediately — and not because of extended hospital visits.
I love reading long-form magazine articles, but it’s become a crapshoot as to whether the link I click on from Twitter or Facebook is behind a paywall. I expect to have to shell out for more than the allotted 10 New York Times pieces per month, but even some of my favorite websites, like the New York food blog Grubstreet, are charging for content. I’m happy to pay to support journalism, of course, but I can’t support more than one or two outlets at a time.
The opposite of Facebook
The fact that Apple News+ bundles all of those subscriptions into one is obviously a money-saver. (By Apple's math, subscribing to the 300-plus magazines and newspapers in News+ would run you $8,000.) But Apple News is curated by humans, who take into account the trustworthiness of a publication and the credibility of a story before pushing it out to the masses. There is no algorithm leading you to garbage articles that have tons of engagement because they inspire fear or outrage. You just get the news.
As someone who’s used Apple News since it launched, I expect the same reliable sources from News+. The magazines are varied in topic and tone, but all of the content is high-quality.
Then there’s the privacy aspect: Apple doesn’t allow advertisers to track what you read in News+. The subscription is the product, not you. Algorithms that predict the content you want to watch or read have proved untrusthworthy, and sometimes downright dangerous. Apple wants to keep you engaged with award-winning journalism and gorgeous photography by curating it in one spot for a low price. That engagement won’t need to come cheaply by allowing outlets to run amok and share garbage stories for clicks.
Another thing I appreciate about Apple News+ is the way it brings magazines to life in a way you don’t often see on the web. Reading a magazine is an experience, because the design and artwork are as integral as the words.
Apple has worked with publishers to create a new experience for the News app — perhaps an even better one than physical magazines. As you browse through the catalog selection, the magazine covers aren’t static — the subjects move, drawing you in.
There are some magazines I’ve never heard of, or have never had any interest in reading. I won’t have to comb through them to find articles I might want to read; Apple News+ will learn my interests and recommend stories across its catalog on the subjects I’m into at any given moment.
And, perhaps my favorite part: Magazines I love the most will automatically download to News+ so I can read them offline. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve boarded a flight and realized I brought no reading material and I’ve already watched the in-flight movie selection. Now I’ll have a world of content on my iPad without any action on my part.
Apple has tried this before, with both The Daily, an iPad-only news publication, and the Newsstand app in 2011. But this seems like a totally different approach — instead of buying separate subscriptions and accessing them in one app, as with Newsstand, Apple News+ charges one price for all of the content you could want. (Well, not all. But a lot.)
Apple News+ is also free for the first month, which will give me plenty of time to decide if I want to pay $9.99. I’m already a little disappointed to find out that the Wall Street Journal, which was hyped as a high-profile partner, may not be putting all of its content in News+, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter. Other publishers may decide to do the same, reducing the value of a subscription.
I’m curious to see if outlets that currently charge for subscriptions and are not participating in News+ decide it’s worth jumping in. Despite taking a smaller cut of each subscription, publishers may be able to reach more people and put the truth in front of more eyeballs.
News+ might not be perfect, but if algorithms led us to this cycle of distrust and disinformation, maybe curation can lead us out of it.
Be sure to check out our Apple Show Time hub page for a look at everything Apple announced at its March 25 event.