Vanity Fair: How Apple tried to woo the WashPo and NYTimes

“We’ll make you the most-read newspaper in the world.” — Eddy Cue’s elevator pitch.

From Vanity Fair: “ARE WE AT A PARTY, OR A WAKE?” posted Monday on Apple News+.

That more or less sums up the schizophrenic reactions to the launch of Apple News+, which is the latest—and arguably the most consequential—entrant in a series of newfangled platform-publisher experiments ranging from Facebook Instant Articles, to Snapchat Discover, to Google Amp. On the one hand, publications throughout the industry have either moved, or are moving, toward revenue models in which people pay them directly for what they’re reading online. Apple’s new venture can give publications like these the opportunity to reach millions of Apple consumers who might not already be subscribing to their content…

On the other hand, by getting on board with Apple News+, you run the risk of abdicating your direct relationship with readers and potentially cannibalizing your existing subscriber pool, thereby handing more leverage to an ever-more-powerful platform economy that has already wreaked havoc on journalism and the news business…  In a searing takedown of Apple News+ published by one of its own partner publications, TechCrunch, Josh Constine argued that “publishers are crazy to jump into bed with Apple News+…  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.”

That would appear to be the primary concern of the two major News+ holdouts: The New York Times and The Washington Post. Apple badly wanted to lock down at least one of them, and it began a vigorous courtship of the papers last spring, not long after the Texture deal closed and Apple’s plans for its content bundle were beginning to materialize, according to people familiar with the matter. “They put a tremendous amount of pressure on,” one source said. “Eddy Cue was in and out of their offices really trying to woo them.” Cue’s elevator pitch, according to people familiar with the discussions, was, “We’ll make you the most-read newspaper in the world.”

My take: No print publication—not even the Times and Post—is negotiating from a position of strength.


  1. S Lawton said:
    ” My take: No print publication—not even the Times and Post—is negotiating from a position of strength. ”
    Are they print publications or are they publications that offer print? I can’t speak for the NUT but the Post already has a powerful partner that gives them the opportunity of tens of millions of eyeballs.

    April 1, 2019
  2. Kathy Corby said:
    Signed up all excited on day 1 for Apple News+ and cancelled my subscription yesterday. My motivation for signing up? WSJ! I already subscribe to the NYT and WaPo but the WSJ was just too pricey for me, and I didn’t always like the editorial content, so I had cancelled my previous subscription. BUT guess what? It turns out that you can’t actually access the WSJ content– just the few articles– maybe 2 or 3 daily– that appear in the Apple News feed. I searched and searched, but most of the articles on the WSJ front page were still behind that paywall. The magazine content was all over the map, and mostly just the kind of stuff I’m trying to waste less time on anyway. Sorry, Apple. Until a subscription means real unfiltered access, it’s not worth the extra $10.

    April 1, 2019
    • Robert Paul Leitao said:

      I thought the same thing after first subscribing. But after working with Apple News+ for the past week, there’s a lot more content now available on the WSJ tab. It may be only articles that were published after News+ went live, but there are now six sections of content that are active and updated frequently.

      I’d give it another try before making a final decision. In all, I’m enthralled by Apple News+ for the low price of $9.99 a month and access to News+ is available to all members of my household that have joined the family plan.

      Beyond the WSJ, I’ve found lots of good content and access to publications that I haven’t read before because of high newsstand prices or independent subscription rates that I couldn’t justify despite my huge appetite for quality editorial content.

      April 1, 2019
  3. Fred Stein said:
    Both VF and TC article over generalize. It make sense that NYT and WP did not jump on board. They won’t get much more exposure and will lose some revenue. But for other pubs and especially for Magazines the opposite is true.

    The deal with the WSJ is interesting.They already have 1.7M on-line subs and about 840K in print subs. WSJ will only archive 3 days worth of news on Apple News+ and will mainly feature the more generic news articles. Furthermore, the WSJ gets first mover advantage on the Apple platform vs. other acclaimed national newspapers. Net: WSJ may lose a tiny amount of revenue but will gain new readers and perhaps new real subscribers and ad revenue. WSJ on New+ may take revenue away from other national newspapers.

    April 1, 2019
  4. Jerry W Doyle said:
    I hope Eddy Cue’s pitch to the NYT & WP went further than “…We’ll make you the most-read newspaper in the world.” That pitch, while it has merit, is a put-off to publishers. Little doubt exists in my mind that for the few remaining viable publishers their industry no longer is the “top-down” version of today’s news and events of yesteryear. It is the global platforms, such as Apple’s continuous growing installed user base of one plus billion, that is today’s media plantations.

    The subtext of Eddy C’s pitch relative to journalism should be the effect of Apple’s ingenuity, Apple’s expertise, Apple’s track record (iTunes Music), Apple’s ability to tap its network of resources to bring to bear in support of journalism on Apple’s existing global platform and how Apple can transition that access into real money and free press from its online global content.

    It does not take a rocket scientist to discern that Apple’s platform will continue to grow, connecting its humongous installed user base with Apple Plus News altering dramatically traditional journalism as we know it today. At some period in their “Go-it-alone” approach the NYT and the WP will find they have become moot, certainly marginalized.

    Journalism matters. If the NYT or the WP truly want to make sure of that fact then they need a media plantation’s global platform to reach a serious, greater breadth of sustained public involvement for moving a free press in democracy across the global horizon.

    April 1, 2019

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