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The danger of ‘I already pay for Apple News+’

Apple doesn’t care about news, it cares about recurring revenue. That’s why publishers are crazy to jump into bed with Apple News+. They’re rendering their own subscription options unnecessary in exchange for a sliver of what Apple pays out from the mere $10 per month it charges for unlimited reading.
The unfathomable platform risk here makes Facebook’s exploitative Instant Articles program seem toothless in comparison. On Facebook, publishers became generic providers of dumb content for the social network’s smart pipe that stole the customer relationship from content creators. But at least publishers were only giving away their free content.
Apple News+ threatens to open a massive hole in news site paywalls, allowing their best premium articles to escape. Publishers hope they’ll get exposure to new audiences. But any potential new or existing direct subscriber to a publisher will no longer be willing to pay a healthy monthly fee to occasionally access that top content while supporting the rest of the newsroom. They’ll just cherry pick what they want via News+, and Apple will shave off a few cents for the publisher while owning all the data, customer relationship and power.

“Why subscribe to that publisher? I already pay for Apple News+” should be the question haunting journalists’ nightmares. For readers, $10 per month all-you-can-eat from 300-plus publishers sounds like a great deal today. But it could accelerate the demise of some of those outlets, leaving society with fewer watchdogs and storytellers. If publishers agree to the shake hands with the devil, the dark lord will just garner more followers, making its ruinous offer more tempting.
There are so many horrifying aspects of Apple News+ for publishers, it’s best just to list each and break them down.
No relationship with the reader
To succeed, publishers need attention, data and revenue, and Apple News+ gets in the way of all three. Readers visit Apple’s app, not the outlet’s site that gives it free rein to promote conference tickets, merchandise, research reports and other money-makers. Publishers don’t get their Apple News+ readers’ email addresses for follow-up marketing, cookies for ad targeting and content personalization, or their credit card info to speed up future purchases.

At the bottom of articles, Apple News+ recommends posts by an outlet’s competitors. Readers end up without a publisher’s bookmark in their browser toolbar, app on their phone or even easy access to them from News+’s default tab. They won’t see the outlet’s curation that highlights its most important content, or develop a connection with its home screen layout. They’ll miss call-outs to follow individual reporters and chances to interact with innovative new interactive formats.
Perhaps worst of all, publishers will be thrown right back into the coliseum of attention. They’ll need to debase their voice and amp up the sensationalism of their headlines or risk their users straying an inch over to someone else. But they’ll have no control of how they’re surfaced…
At the mercy of the algorithm
Which outlets earn money on Apple News+ will be largely determined by what Apple decides to show in those first few curatorial slots on screen. At any time, Apple could decide it wants more visual photo-based content or less serious world news because it placates users even if they’re less informed. It could suddenly preference shorter takes because they keep people from bouncing out of the app, or more generic shallow-dives that won’t scare off casual readers who don’t even care about that outlet. What if Apple signs up a publisher’s biggest competitor and sends them all the attention, decimating the first outlet’s discovery while still exposing its top paywalled content for cheap access?

Remember when Facebook wanted to build the world’s personalized newspaper and delivered tons of referral traffic, then abruptly decided to favor “friends and family content” while leaving publishers to starve? Now outlets are giving Apple News+ the same iron grip on their businesses. They might hire a ton of talent to give Apple what it wants, only for the strategy to change. The Wall Street Journal says it’s hiring 50 staffers to make content specifically for Apple News+. Those sound like some of the most precarious jobs in the business right now.
Remember when Facebook got the WSJ, Guardian and more to build “social reader apps” and then one day just shut off the virality and then shut down the whole platform? News+ revenue will be a drop in the bucket of iPhone sales, and Apple could at any time decide it’s not thirsty any more and let News+ rot. That and the eventual realization of platform risk and loss of relationship with the reader led the majority of Facebook’s Instant Articles launch partners like The New York Times, The Washington Post and Vox to drop the format. Publishers would be wise to come to that same conclusion now before they drive any more eyeballs to News+.
News+ isn’t built for news
Apple acquired the magazine industry’s self-distribution app Texture a year ago. Now it’s trying to cram in traditional text-based news with minimal work to adapt the product. That means National Geographic and Sports Illustrated get featured billing with animated magazine covers and ways to browse the latest “issue.” News outlets get demoted far below, with no intuitive or productive way to skim between articles beyond swiping through a chronological stack.

I only see WSJ’s content below My Magazines, a massive At Home feature from Architectural Digest, a random Gadgets & Gear section of magazine articles, another huge call-out for the new issue of The Cut plus four pieces inside of it, and one more giant look at Bloomberg’s profile of Dow Chemical. That means those magazines are likely to absorb a ton of taps and engagement time before users even make it to the WSJ, which will then only score few cents per reader.
Magazines often publish big standalone features that don’t need a ton of context. News articles are part of a continuum of information that can be laid out on a publisher’s own site where they have control, but not on Apple News+. And to make articles more visually appealing, Apple strips out some of the cross-promotional recirculation, sign-up forms and commerce opportunities on which publishers depend.
Shattered subscriptions
The whole situation feels like the music industry stumbling into the disastrous iTunes download era. Musicians earned solid revenue when someone bought their whole physical album for $16 to listen to the single, then fell in love with the other songs and ended up buying merchandise or concert tickets. Then suddenly, fans could just buy the digital single for $0.99 from iTunes, form a bond with Apple instead of the artist and the whole music business fell into a depression.
Apple News+’s onerous revenue-sharing deal puts publishers in the same pickle. That occasional flagship article that’s a breakout success no longer serves as a tentpole for the rest of the subscription.
Formerly, people would need to pay $30 per month for a WSJ subscription to read that article, with the price covering the research, reporting and production of the whole newspaper. Readers felt justified paying the price because they got access to the other content, and the WSJ got to keep all the money even if people didn’t read much else or declined to even visit during the month. Now someone can pop in, read the WSJ’s best or most resource-intensive article, and the publisher effectively gets paid à la carte like with an iTunes single. Publishers will be scrounging for a cut of readers’ $10 per month, which will reportedly be divided in half by Apple’s oppressive 50 percent cut, then split between all the publishers someone reads — which will be heavily skewed towards the magazines that get the spotlight.
I’ve already had friends ask why they should keep paying if most of the WSJ is in Apple News along with tons of other publishers for a third of the price. Hardcore business news addicts that want unlimited access to the finance content that’s only available for three days in Apple News+ might keep their WSJ subscription. But anyone just in it for the highlights is likely to stop paying WSJ directly — or never start.
I’m personally concerned because TechCrunch has agreed to put its new Extra Crunch $15 per month subscription content inside Apple News+ despite all the warning signs. We’re saving some perks, like access to conference calls just for direct Extra Crunch subscribers, and perhaps a taste of EC’s written content might convince people they want the bonus features. But even more likely seems the possibility that readers would balk at paying again for just some extra perks when they already get the rest from Apple News, and many newsrooms aren’t set up to do anything but write articles.
It’s the “good enough” strategy we see across tech products playing out in news. When Instagram first launched Stories, it lacked a ton of Snapchat’s features, but it was good enough and conveniently located where people already spent their time and had their social graph. Snapchat didn’t suddenly lose all its users, but there was little reason for new users to sign up and growth plummeted.
Apple News is pre-loaded on your device, where you already have a credit card set up, and it’s bundled with lots of content, at a cheaper price than most individual news outlets. Even if it doesn’t offer unlimited, permanent access to every WSJ Pro story, Apple News+ will be good enough. And it gets better with each outlet that allies with this Borg.
But this time, good enough won’t just determine which tech giant wins. Apple News+ could decimate the revenue of a fundamental pillar of society we rely on to hold the powerful accountable. Yet to the journalists that surrender their content, Apple will have no accountability.

The danger of ‘I already pay for Apple News+’

Новый iPhone без 5G, но с самым быстрым Wi-Fi

Apple планируется выпустить вторую итерацию iPhone XR в 2019 году, хотя его продажи оказались довольно низкими, учитывая вполне разумную стоимость смартфона такого класса, сообщает, ссылаясь на свои источники WSJ. «Яблочная» не собирается отказываться от

Verizon declines to comment on WSJ report saying Tim Armstrong is in talks to leave Oath

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Tim Armstrong is in talks to leave Verizon as soon as next month.
Armstrong heads up the carrier giant’s digital and advertising division, Oath (formerly AOL, prior to the Yahoo acquisition and the subsequent merger of the two units). Oath also happens to be TechCrunch’s parent, of course.
We reached out to our corporate overlords for a confirm or deny on the newspaper report. A Verizon spokesperson told us: “We don’t comment on speculation and have no announcements to make.”
The WSJ cites “people familiar with the matter” telling it Armstrong is in talks to leave, which would mean he’s set to step away from an ongoing process of combining the two business units into a digital content and ad tech giant.
Though he has presided over several rounds of job cuts already, as part of that process.
Verizon acquired Armstrong when it bought AOL in 2015. The Yahoo acquisition followed in 2017 — with the two merged to form the odd-sounding Oath, a b2b brand that Armstrong seemingly inadvertently outted.
Building an ad giant to challenge Google and Facebook is the underlying strategy. But as the WSJ points out there hasn’t been much evidence of Oath moving Verizon’s growth needle yet (which remains tied to its wireless infrastructure).
The newspaper cites eMarketer projections which have Google taking over a third of the online ad market by 2020; Facebook just under a fifth; and Oath a mere 2.7%.
Meanwhile, Verizon’s appointment of former Ericsson CEO, Hans Vestberg, as its new chief exec in June, taking over from Lowell McAdam (who stepped down after seven years), suggests pipes (not content) remain the core focus for the carrier — which has the expensive of 5G upgrades to worry about.
A cost reduction program, intending to use network virtualization to take $10BN in expenses out of the business over the next four years, has also been a recent corporate priority for Verizon.
Given that picture, it’s less clear how Oath’s media properties mesh with its plans.
The WSJ’s sources told the newspaper there were recent discussions about whether to spin off the Oath business entirely — but said Verizon has instead decided to integrate some of its operations more closely with the rest of the company (whatever ‘integrate’ means in that context).
(Since the story broke, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis has expanded slightly on the ‘no comment’. Speaking during an appearance at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference this morning, he said: “Our commitment is as strong today to Oath as it has ever been… There’s a lot of good work going on there. It’s really setting the foundation of what we expect to do with the business going forward, and we still feel very strongly there’s a great opportunity there… So we continue to be very committed to Oath. There’s a significant opportunity for us there.”)
There have been other executive changes at Oath earlier this year, too, with the head of its media properties, Simon Khalaf, departing in April — and not being replaced.
Instead Armstrong appointed a COO, K Guru Gowrappan, hired in from Alibaba, who he said Oath’s media bosses would now report to.
“Now is our time to turn the formation of Oath into the formation of one of the world’s best operating companies that paves a safe and exciting path forward for our billion consumers and the world’s most trusted brands,” Armstrong wrote in a staff memo on Gowrappan’s appointment obtained by Recode.
“Guru will run day to day operations of our member (consumer) and B2B businesses and will serve as a member of our global executive team helping to set company culture and strategy. Guru will also be an important part of the Verizon work that is helping both Oath and Verizon build out the future of global services and revenue,” he added, saying he would be spending more of his time “spread across strategic Oath opportunities and Verizon… leading our global strategy, global executive team, and corporate operations”.
At the start of the year Oath also named a new CFO, Vanessa Wittman, after the existing officer, Holly Hess, moved to Verizon to head up the aforementioned cost-saving program.
Reaction to the rumour of Armstrong’s imminent departure has sparked fresh speculation about jobs cuts on the anonymous workplace app Blind — with Oath/AOL/Yahoo employees suggesting additional rounds of company-wide layouts could be coming in October.
Or, well, that could always just be trolling.

Verizon declines to comment on WSJ report saying Tim Armstrong is in talks to leave Oath

Nine Random People Might Decide The Future Of Mobile Device Design

Screen Shot 2012-08-21 at 3.46.33 AM

After the two sides give their closing arguments in the Apple versus Samsung trial tomorrow, the jury goes into deliberations. The nine person group will be given a shockingly complex worksheet, from which a verdict will be produced. The WSJ is reporting that the worksheet includes obtuse questions like, “What is the dollar amount that Samsung is entitled to receive from Apple for Samsung’s utility patent infringement claims on the ’516 and ’941 patents?,” etc.

Reading through the worksheet, which hypothetically could prove whether Samsung owes Apple $2.5 billion or whether Apple owns Samsung up to $399 million due to patent infringement, makes your brain hurt.

Aside from the patent jargon, what’s particularly brain numbing is that nine randomly chosen people who happen to live around the fabled “Silicon Valley” will be setting a precedent for the future of mobile device design and innovation through their (relatively) uninformed answers.

Ars Technica reports that the jury includes “an electrical engineer who worked in hard drives for over 35 years, a homemaker, a construction worker, a young unemployed man, an insurance agent, an ex-Navy avionics technician, a systems engineer, and a bike shop manager.”

Reuters is reporting that it’s composed of “a store operations manager for a cycling retailer, a systems engineer and a benefits and payroll manager who works with startups” in addition to an “insurance agent, an unemployed video game enthusiast and a project manager for wireless carrier AT&T.”

The gender breakdown is seven men and two women, and, presuming there’s no career overlap, we’ve got  …

1. An electrical engineer

2. A homemaker

3. A construction worker

4.  A young unemployed man who likes video games

5. An insurance agent

6. An ex-Navy avionics technician

7. A store operations manager for a cycling retailer

8. A project manager for wireless carrier AT&T

9. A benefits and payroll manager who works with startups

Sounds like an interesting and lovely bunch, but should they really be the people with the final word on such a complicated situation between two hugely successful and influential high-tech companies?

“I am worried we might have a seriously confused jury here,” presiding Judge Lucy Koh said, concerned. “I have trouble understanding this, and I have spent a little more time with this than they have.” Not to be tech elitist, but we actually cover the space and it’s actually pretty hard to digest for us as well.

If only there were a way we could actually have people who know about patent infringement making important decisions about patent infringement?

In case you missed it, nine random people in San Jose this week will decide the future of mobile device industrial design.—
Fake Alexia (@alexia_tsotsis) August 21, 2012

But no, that would go against what the American judicial system is all about — Democracy. It’s why we call expert witnesses and don’t require experts to be part of the jury. But you only realize how absolutely risky and ridiculous it is when you feel a stake in how the court decision comes out, or ponder how strange it seems that an insurance agent will have a say on whether the Galaxy Tab 10.1 remains banned in the US.

I mean, I know plenty of insurance agents, and it’s certainly a noble career, but quiet honestly — really?

Sure, there are quite a few caveats: The jury’s decision needs to be unanimous, spanning dozens of devices, and there are apparently more than 700 questions on that worksheet. Also, no matter what decision is reached, both companies are expected to appeal.

Still, it’s a lot of power in the hands of randoms: If the jury penalizes Samsung for making their phones and tablets a copy of Apple’s then Samsung will need to find a new look. As will all other myriad Android people who are making iPhone-style phones. If they decide Samsung is okay, it’s open season on copycat devices.

Do we end up with the left side or the right side of that image up there? These nine people could decide.

Image via Cult of Mac

Nine Random People Might Decide The Future Of Mobile Device Design

It’s Time For A Larger iPhone


The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Apple is currently ordering larger screens for the next iPhone. With the usual nonsense, the WSJ cited people familiar with the matter and stated these screens measure at least 4-inches diagonally. Production is set to begin next month, they say.

The Journal better be right, though. A 3.5-inch screen is just too small now. At this point to say anything to the contrary is pure fanboi nonsense. The standard argument that consumers don’t want a large phone is tired and overused. Besides, it’s effectively proven wrong by the 20 million Galaxy S II phones sold by Samsung last year. It’s time for a larger iPhone.

When Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007 it was a revolutionary device. With a novel interface running on a beautiful 3.5-inch screen, the iPhone rocked the mobile scene. But now, over five years later, the iPhone has changed very little. This is a good thing for the most part. Keep with what works. However, the mobile world has since caught up to the iPhone and started moving forward with risky (read: larger) form factors while Apple kept with the tried and true. This is Apple’s Standard Operating Procedure.

Apple is notorious for keeping products on the market for as long as they’re financially viable. The company’s computers often only get spec bumps twice a year while other makers push the latest hardware every quarter. The Mac Mini once went a full year without an update. But Apple can do this. Consumers often buy Apple products ignoring specs, thus allowing the company to see larger margins on aging devices. Eventually moves need to be made, though.

The iPhone is still the dominant smartphone on the market. Apple could likely keep selling the iPhone 4S at $200 for the next year and still see iOS’s marketshare increase. Consumers want the iPhone that bad. But it’s starting to show its age and consumers are noticing.

There is a new report published nearly every other day proclaiming iOS or Android as the dominant platform. But it doesn’t really matter at this point. Both are winning and Android is doing so with large, attention-grabbing screens that consumers clearly want. Of course Apple will always have its base of loyal fanboys no matter what, but the average consumer is swayed by trend — including the trend of large screens.

The next iPhone will have a 4-inch screen per the common rumor circulating ’round the Internet. This excites me greatly. My daily driver is a Droid X, which also has 4-inch screen. After playing with nearly every new phone, I still find its 4-inch 16:9 screen the sweet spot between the usability of a small screen and the additional real estate associated with a large screen. Of course there are numerous arguments against Apple employing a larger screen, but a user on The Verge’s forum’s elegantly explained how it could be done. In short, by using a 3.99-inch 9:5 screen, iOS would scale nearly perfectly and add an additional row for icons on the homescreen. It would then be up to Apple’s all-star marketing team to convince the world it’s a 4-inch screen rather than 3.99.

There are no doubt blind Apple zealots absolutely appalled at the thought of a larger iPhone. Ignore ‘em. Change is inevitable. In response to MG’s take on the Evo 4G back in 2010, I wrote “Saying that the EVO 4G’s screen is too big is like saying, “No thanks, I would rather ride in the back of a cab than in your limo. I like feeling cramped and restricted.”” (We both were right about the phone’s horrible battery life, though) That still holds true today. A large screen, if done right, is an amazing feature and one Apple will likely employ in the future.

Again, to fulfill its goal of purely making money, Apple does not need to change anything about the iPhone. The iPhone 4S sold like gangbusters on the back of just a trivial spec bump and worthless Siri. However, the iPhone 4 form factor is no longer the single most attractive phone on the market. Other mobile phone companies have caught up with Apple. That can’t sit well with The House Jobs Built. Apple needs to regain its street cred and silence the haters, if only for a moment.

Sometime later this year Apple will introduce the next generation of the iPhone. As proven by previous iPhone rumors, it’s hard to tell what’s on tap. It might have a larger screen and, quite honestly, it might not. The WSJ’s report could be wrong. That said, there will come a time that Apple rolls out a large screen for the iPhone. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

It’s Time For A Larger iPhone