Jun 30, 2020 - Economy

The New York Times bails on Apple News

illustration of the apple news stand app

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The New York Times made headlines Monday when it said it would stop circulating articles on Apple News, because it "does not align with our strategy to fund quality journalism by building direct relationships with paying readers."

Why it matters: The move is forcing industry insiders to consider whether the Times/Apple split will serve as a catalyst for other publishers, especially those reliant on subscription revenue, to break with platforms that don't directly help them recruit paying subscribers or offer enough ad revenue.

Be smart: The Apple News framework does little to bolster the Times' main marketing objective, which is convert existing readers to become subscribers via its own platforms.

  • The Times has 6 million subscribers out of roughly 150 million monthly uniques (during a non-coronavirus era).
  • It wants to reach 10 million subscribers by 2025.
  • The Times has experimented with distribution partnerships, but it's also been quick to pull out of those partnerships when they don't suit its objectives, including Facebook's "Instant Articles" feature in 2017.

By the numbers: The Times spent roughly $168 million last year on marketing, including a substantial amount on Facebook, where it could easily drive subscriber acquisitions through direct-response ads, as well as The Oscars, where it could drive subscriber acquisition through emotional, splashy TV ads.

  • In response to the news, Apple said "The New York Times has only offered Apple News a few stories per day" and that it's still committed to supporting quality journalism. It says 125 million people use Apple News monthly.

The big picture: The news comes days after the Times said it would lay off 68 people, mostly in advertising.

  • In the memo announcing the layoffs, Times executives conceded that while the cuts are driven by the pandemic, they also "reflect long-term trends in our business and are fully consistent with the company’s strategy."
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