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Apple courts nervous publishers for new Apple News bundle

illustration of the apple news stand app
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Apple has been rallying publishers to join a new premium bundle offering from Apple News that will launch next spring under the banner of Texture, a startup that Apple acquired earlier this year, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Media companies, particularly those with dwindling print income, are desperate for new revenue but afraid of giving up control. Apple is a tempting partner, but publishers are wary of participating in "all-in-one" services that take a slice of subscription fees and control distribution.

Details: Apple plans to relaunch Texture within Apple News for $9.99 a month. The app, a "Netflix for magazines" that offers unlimited access to about 200 magazines, was acquired by Apple in March.

  • Publishers are apprehensive about partnering with Apple, fearful that Texture's cheap bundle would cut their total revenue, per Bloomberg.
  • Some publications are building independent bases: The New York Times' digital subscriptions reached their highest figure, at more than 2.5 million subscribers by the third quarter of 2018. 
  • But digital traffic may be flattening. In the fourth quarter of 2017, an average of 11.5 million monthly unique visitors visited the top 50 newspapers, marking the first year these sites haven't seen a traffic increase, per Pew Research Center.

Flashback: Another reason publishers are reluctant to join Apple is that they've been here before.

  • Apple's Newsstand app once promised to help publishers find audiences, but it never quite took off, causing the company to fold the built-in app in 2015.