Apple exec Eddy Cue took the stage at SXSW in Austin today to talk about Apple's latest moves into content. The biggest news of the day is that Apple has agreed to purchase the all-you-can-read magazine subscription app Texture. Cue also talked about Apple's plans for TV shows and answered questions about purchasing Netflix.
Subscriptions are the hot market that everybody wants to dominate these days. We have subscriptions services for TV, music, movie theatres and meal plans. But Texture, an app that offers unlimited access to issues of 200 major magazines for $US10 ($13) per month, hasn't really set the world on fire since its initial launch in 2015. Apple seems to think there's some potential there and it's agreed to take the app off of Next Issue Media's hands. No price tag has been announced, but according to Recode, the consortium of publishers such as Conde Nast, Hearst, News Corp and Meredith were all happy with the deal. Investment firm KKR put $US50 million ($64 million) into the company in 2015, so that seems like a reasonable minimum for what Apple might have paid.
Cue didn't give a lot of specifics about Apple's plans for Texture. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he told the audience at SXSW that magazines offer incredible content and design through the Texture app and "we're really excited about bringing that into Apple News". That could mean Texture will be fully wrapped into Apple News, or it might just integrate certain design elements.
You might recall when the iPad first launched, Apple fired up a publicity round touting the ways it would save the book, magazine and comic book industries. That didn't really happen. Those industries aren't dead but the iPad didn't really reverse their decline. So, why is Apple making another go at magazines? Cue almost framed it as an altruistic effort on his company's part.
Contrasting Apple News with social media companies such as Facebook's news feed, Cue said that Apple is better positioned to deliver quality curated content because "we're not advertising focused". While social media companies are reliant on keeping you hyper-stimulated and filled with rage as the clickbait headlines gather more "engagement", Apple has you fully addicted to the device in your pocket, and it can take a more leisurely approach to informing you.
There are plenty of good publications featured in Texture's service, but let's face it, the app is about as exciting as receiving a letter from Publisher's Clearing House in your mailbox. While subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify offered an opportunity for seemingly endless discovery, an individual isn't likely to find more than a handful of publications that are personally interesting in Texture. But magazines are great, the price is pretty reasonable, and maybe Apple will continue adding more niche publishers.
As Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Cue oversees some of the company's most boring offerings, such as iTunes and Apple TV. The tone that those products set (meh, its good enough) seems to be Apple's entire strategy for content. It's putting a billion dollars into creating original programming, and what's been announced so far has thrilled virtually no one. Joining the terrible game show Planet of the Apps we have a reboot of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories coming, as well as some sort of drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.
This tepid approach to the booming content wars has caused people to speculate that Apple might try to use its billions of dollars in reserve cash to buy Netflix, or even Disney. "Generally, the history of Apple, we haven't made huge acquisitions," Cue told the audience in Austin. Likening Apple's approach to Pixar's he said, "We're not after quantity, we're after quality." I don't think anyone is comparing Carpool Karaoke to Toy Story, but whatever you say, Eddy.