First Apple promised publishers to bring new life to digital editions with the market release of the first iPad. An industry like publishing, constantly short on oxygen and struggling with digital media for a viable business model that wouldn’t involve cats pictures, didn’t probably deserve such a bad treatment. Or maybe yes.
Everyone thought that with the digital Newsstand a new business model for news on tablets was born. Paid editions and subscriptions funneling through iTunes accounts would have saved the industry. There have been huge and sometimes wrong investments. Magazines and Newspapers should have appeared in Apple’s Newsstand at every cost.
It didn’t turn out to be the same favorable market as paper though. At least for most of the publishers, iOS Apps growth has been slow and lately steady. Apple couldn’t prove that the 30% revenue cut for allowing to reach to their users was enough to justify the commitment to mobile Apps for digital editions.
Mention apart for the Financial Times or The Economist, who are doing pretty well and — by the way — are playing around with webApps more than with native clients, there’s no evidence that a business model for the AppStore or worse Google Play will ever work and make journalism sustainable.
No surprise when the last two years have seen in the order: 1. building responsive websites, or redesign mobile websites dozens of times 2. hiring social media managers and strategists, all coming up with more click baiting content on a TV-like schedule 3. doing videos. Of everything, cats, dogs, sport, funny things, listicles and tutorials. 4. writing advertorials, doing listicles again, churnalism and laying down almost half of the newsroom 5. trying out every advertisement serving system out there, coupling with unrelated content paid recommendation
Apple is now coming at you again. Most of the above will be wiped away by iOS 9 advertisement blockers working at a system level.
Widely popular services like Chartbeat, Google Analytics, Adsense, Taboola, Outbrain, you name it, will be possibly blocked by most of the iOS users out there by default. Why keep it off if it is so good?
Take the New York Times. They struggled with the newsroom to update their priorities and drop the page one board meeting in favor of the website editors. They started to adapt to a mobile-first publishing strategy, with multiple streams of data on user behavior feeding into editorial decisions.
A readers’ heaven, a publishers’ nightmare
One might argue that it’s everything going for good. Web sites will load faster, you won’t be massively tracked anymore, you’ll save money on your data plan. All true, all good, but now what?
If you want to disrupt a system, even if isn’t proving to work yet, you should build a new one before.
Apple is after Google’s advertisement with iAD, an advertisement serving service that was born dead and still isn’t proving to be working, or to be collecting any relevant transaction. Most of the publishers will probably enroll with Apple News and provide their customized feeds, they will probably opt-in for the iAD network too, looking to be proved that Apple’s take on publishing is right.
I’m not that confident, at least not as much as I was when tablets were trying to change content consumption behaviors forever.
I still envision a model for paid content that should find its way through disengaged readers and click baiting stuff being pushed to the devices in real time, every day. If a magazine or a newspaper is what you’re after, I still think you have to prove that you can stay in your market, and find the way to make people like and pay for the service you’re providing. There’ll be no distribution services that will help, it’s all about respecting readers, building a community and providing a valuable and differentiated service. One that can’t be replaced by a cat’s animated GIF in the reading timeshare that you’re competing for.