8 Facts All Publishers Should Know About Apple News Plus

Esra Celebi

Apple launched its new subscription service, Apple News Plus, in the US and Canada in March 2019. And as you probably already know, they plan to offer this service in the UK and Australia in the fall of 2019.

Apple launched its new subscription service "Apple News Plus" in the US and Canada in March 2019. And as you probably already know, they plan to offer this service in the UK and Australia in the fall of 2019.

As is so often the case with Apple announcements, reactions have ranged from "a disappointment" to "an antidote to Facebook's garbage".

Many publishers are confused about this issue. So I would like to bring some clarity: What does Apple News Plus offer readers and publishers? Does it make sense for publishers to participate?

In this article, I will give you an overview of the most important facts about Apple News Plus.

The following topics await you in this article:

  • How many subscribers does the service have?
  • What is the pricing model?
  • Which publishers are participating?
  • What do the magazines look like?
  • Is there ad tracking?
  • In what way is Apple News Plus the opposite of Facebook?
  • Should you join?
  • How can you publish on Apple News Plus?

1. how many subscribers does Apple's News Plus have?

Before we get started, let's establish what Apple News Plus actually is: It is a paid extension of Apple News and organizes news from the web in an app. With this paid subscription, you can, for example, read articles that would otherwise be behind paywalls.

According to Apple, within the first 48 hours of launch, Apple News Plus already boasted 200,000 subscribers. Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, is also justifiably proud of the fact that the free Apple News service has 85 million monthly active users.

This makes the service the number one news app in the world. In addition, more than 5 billion articles are read in Apple News every month.

These impressive figures alone make it relevant for publishers to take a close look at this new channel.

Apple News Plus included magazines

2. how much does Apple News Plus cost?

It makes sense for Apple to invest in a new subscription service because the iPhone business is declining.

Subscription services such as the App Store, Apple Music and Apple Care, on the other hand, are growing successfully. Revenue from this division rose 19% to a record high of $10.9 billion.

This makes me wonder: Where is the "new" money coming from?

For readers

Apple News Plus works on the Spotify/Netflix model: once readers are in, they have access to all content.

In the U.S., the subscription price is $9.99 per month after a free one-month trial. Free family sharing is also available for up to six family members.

Apple enables family sharing

In Apple's own words, Apple News Plus provides access to content that normally costs over $8,000 per year when purchased individually.

For publishers

Apple claims 50% of the total subscription revenue for itself and leaves the remaining 50% to publishers. These are further divided - based on how many people read the articles.

This raises understandable concerns among publishers, as they usually earn significantly more with their own subscription service.

3. which publishers are participating in Apple News Plus?

Renowned publications are already in the process

In the US, over 300 magazines are included in Apple News Plus. And they come in a variety of categories, including lifestyle, entertainment, news, and many more.

Apple has already won over most major magazine publishers such as Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc. and Meredith with its offering.

Well-known magazines such as Vogue, National Geographic Magazine, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal are also on board.

Infamous Media Brands are already participating

Here you will find a selection of participating titles:

  • Newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times
  • News & Politics: Time, The New Yorker, The Atlantic
  • Finance & Business: Forbes, Money, Inc. magazine
  • Lifestyle: ELLE, Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, GQ
  • Science and technology: Wired, National Geographic, CNET
  • Entertainment: Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, People, OK
  • Sports: Runners World, Sports Illustrated

You can find a complete list here or here. That looks swell, doesn't it?

Still, you may have noticed that some big players are missing. In the following, I would like to go into who is missing and why.

Two key players missing

Just as with iTunes' early efforts to bring record labels on board, Apple's publishing approach has delivered mixed results in the beginning.

Although Apple has been able to bring some prestigious publications on board, the company has failed to convince the Washington Post and the New York Times, for example.

In an interview with Reuters, Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times, explains why he is not participating: "We tend to be pretty leery about getting people used to finding our journalism elsewhere. We're also generally concerned about our reporting being mixed in with other reporting in some kind of blender."

This is a big loss for Apple because the New York Times is the largest U.S. newspaper, with about 4 million subscribers.

New York Times Headquarters

There are pros and cons regarding Apple News Plus. Many are convinced that it's a good idea to join. But what exactly is meant by joining in? Are the publishers fully on board?

Let me take the Wall Street Journal as an example.

What does participation mean in concrete terms?

The publishing industry was surprised when the Wall Street Journal announced it would become part of Apple's 9.99 package. That's because the Wall Street Journal's annual subscription costs hundreds of dollars - or about $38.99 per month. How can the Journal benefit from this deal?

Brian Stelter (CNN) reported on Twitter, citing inside sources, that Apple News Plus users would get access to "a curated collection of general interest articles." To access complete information, users would still need to log in to the WSJ portal.

Amol Sharma, a Journal reporter, tweeted that Apple News Plus subscribers "will have access to almost all WSJ articles, but the app will only show general interest articles." According to Sharma, the WSJ seems to be hoping that most users would not look for other articles in the app beyond that.

4. what do magazines look like in Apple News Plus?

Magazines can look spectacular

When it comes to magazines, it is of course extremely important what the layout looks like. After all, reading a magazine is also an experience based on design and artwork.

Apple has worked with selected publishers to bring magazines to life. And thus create a new reading experience for the News Plus app.

Apple News Plus Magazine Look

Magazines like Sport Illustrated and The New Yorker have iPad-friendly designs, spectacular photos, animated covers, well-formatted text, and dynamic content pages. They're really fun to read.

At least on the iPad, you don't feel like you're sacrificing your reading experience for the sake of digital. Because at the end of the day, it's very much about the reading experience, isn't it?

Still, there are magazines like Total Film, for example, that are just PDF files of the print edition. That's somewhat readable on an iPad, but on an iPhone it looks really adventurous.

Over time, I expect much more consistency and better quality here.

The user interface of the app needs improvement

After Apple's launch in the U.S. and Canada, publishers and readers complained about the News Plus app's buggy and chaotic user interface. They said magazines were not yet well structured and the format did not yet fit. The Verge calls it "messy, but good enough."

Apple has assured publishers that it is "working to make the product more intuitive for users while addressing publishers' concerns."

In March 2019, Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president, said that "hundreds" of people are working to make Apple News Plus better.

Of course, there is the part of Apple News Plus that everyone can see. But what happens in the app to readers' invisible personal data? Does Apple track and sell that data?

I'll talk more about tracking in the next paragraph.

5. is there ad tracking in Apple News Plus?

The company promises that it does not know what users read in Apple News Plus. In addition, Apple will not allow advertisers to track readers. If you take Apple at its word, that's a huge advantage for all subscribers for now.

Apple doesn't allow ad tracking

Also, "What you read in Apple News Plus won't follow you around the web." This sentence also comes from the company. The subscription is supposed to be the product, not the readers' data.

For publishers, this approach means that customer data is not shared with them. Publishers can only see what content is being read.

Apple explains that the app learns what users are interested in as they read. And based on that, suggests articles that are relevant to them. This tailors the service to readers' interests.

Apple also claims not to make use of Artificial Intelligence, which could lead users to Fake News.

In the next section, I will explain how Apple differs from other big players like Facebook by using humans instead of machines to curate news.

6. how is Apple News Plus the opposite of Facebook?

The problems of Facebook & Co.

Apple has entered the complex world of news with Apple News, a service read by 85 million people.

Unlike Google, Facebook and Twitter, which have been criticized for their sometimes negative influence on the dissemination of information, Apple has so far avoided controversy.

This is mainly because while the others rely on algorithms to pick headlines, Apple uses humans.

According to experts, Artificial Intelligence is not capable of distinguishing Fake News from fact-based information. AI cannot understand Fake News because AI does not understand the craft of writing.

Facts vs. Fake News

News selected by people

Unlike Apple, Facebook, for example, uses artificial intelligence to distinguish fake news from fact-based information. With its new approach that puts people at the center, Apple has gone in the opposite direction.

At Apple, people select the top stories on the app, not algorithms. Humans consider the trustworthiness and credibility of a story before pushing it out to the masses.

At Apple News, there is no algorithm to guide readers to Fake News. With the threat of these news stories having high engagement rates because they intentionally trigger fear or outrage.

Apple believes it has the best way to consume digital news. Moreover, in typical Silicon Valley fashion, they think they can use the new service to save journalism and, ultimately, democracy.

Although Apple's strategy is risky, it may in fact be the only right way to go.

Now we have examined several different aspects of Apple News Plus. The question remains: Should publishers join the service or not?

7. should you join News Plus?

Just looking at the sheer number of subscribers, Apple News Plus is an attractive channel through which you can gain access to a huge audience.

If you do it right, you can use the platform to both monetize your content and drive people to your own platforms.

That's why I think it's worth trying out the platform without much manual effort.

However, there are also two points that I would definitely consider, as of now:

 Loosing control to big tech companies

I explain below how you can test Apple News Plus risk-free, keeping these points in mind.

8. how can you publish on Apple News Plus?

Since it is not yet clear whether and how Apple News Plus can help publishers, it is advisable not to invest too much time and resources at the beginning.

We at SPRYLAB have been supporting Apple News as a publishing channel for some time now. Recently, we have also started supporting Apple News Plus syndication directly from the Purple DS HUB.

With our solution or a comparable one, you can publish your content directly from print to digital.

In our case, your PDFs are imported into Purple DS HUB in a first step, where your content is automatically mapped with Apple News Plus content blocks. What's more, our publishing workflow from PDF to Apple News Plus is fully automated.

After your articles have been converted to a finished Apple News Plus format, you can publish them to Apple News Plus - and to other digital channels if required.

Learn here how you can convert your print magazine to Apple News Plus without any manual effort.


As I mentioned earlier, Apple News Plus brings with it some potential risks, but also enormous potential. The publishing industry is currently going through massive changes as print revenues continue to decline.

However, Apple News Plus should help publishers reach a wider audience. It's important to remember that Apple is highly motivated to drive their services business as the iPhone business is declining.

As a big brand with a lot of marketing power, Apple News Plus definitely has the potential to be a big success. Especially because readers care a lot about privacy and don't think much of ad tracking.

Indeed, Apple is digitizing the magazine world, and this is where Apple News Plus could find its true purpose. Even if the app's usability isn't perfect yet.

Ready to flip the switch? First, watch our free webinar on "How to make the most of Apple News+" (English) or contact our Sales Team.

Not sure if Purple suits you?

Or you have individual requirements?
We will be happy to advise you.
Kevin Kallenbach
Head of Sales