Apple's grand plan? News+ could be hoping to plug a Facebook-shaped hole in the news feed market in the future
When most content from publishers is free online, Apple and their techno-thaumaturges have deemed it time we start paying for it
Apple has always been late to a party, and now they've turned up at the news and streaming services bash so late that everyone is basically fashionably early. But Apple is a unique beast, it can turn up when it wants, and everyone else just better get with the programme. Still, Apple's News+ raises some rather strange questions, most pertinently, what the hell are they thinking.
When most content from publishers is free online, Apple and their techno-thaumaturges have deemed it time we start paying for it, and if you're too cheap to do that then you shouldn't be on the guest list anyway. But there may be a bit more to Apple News+ than just an idea whose time came about 10 years ago.
Apple's no one's mug, and they may have sniffed a mammoth opportunity on the horizon and are positioning themselves to not so much capture it, as bludgeon it, sling it over their shoulder, and stick it in a dungeon where it will spout profitable platitudes for eternity.
The problem is that opportunity depends on the rampaging thoughts scuttling around inside the mind of one of the world's most inscrutable geniuses, one Mark Elliot Zuckerberg. Poor Mark, his baby and global political powerbroker, Facebook, has been left battered and bruised by assailants that have come at it from all sides. If it hasn't been accused of helping rig national elections and donating people's personal data to global evil corporate charities, it has been blamed for the rise in radicalism, racism, sexism, consumerism and for infusing in all of us that horrible trait — schmuckism.
Rumour is that Mark is pretty ticked off with all this negative publicity and has decided to quit this whole news malarkey and make Facebook a super-duper WhatsApp with state-of-the-art encryption that can only be accessed by companies and governments with over $100 billion in the bank (that's a joke, we hope). So where does that leave the billion or so people that rely on FB for their daily dose of facts? How far will their fingers have to wander to find reasons to wake up angry? Where will they spew their torrents of bile? Tough stuff if you really analyze it, and it looks like Apple has.
It could very well be that Apple have stuck their finger in their mouth, held it up and figured there's a pretty good gust going and they need to get the sails unfurled. If FB does decide to quit the news feed business and saunter off to pastures new, Apple may be hoping their News+ is in pole position to take that space...for a few dollars. And there's the major issue.
Will people so used to getting their news for free be ready to pay for the same content? We thought they wouldn't pay for iTunes (they did and still do). We thought they wouldn't pay top dollar for style and technological savvy (they did and still do). So maybe Apple News+ will become the next Facebook, minus the frolicking felines and gurgling tots, in which case the whole project makes a whole lot of sense. And if Apple can even capture fraction of FB's user base, then Tim Cook will be a very happy man.
But in case Zuckerberg decides to weather the storm and stick with it, then Apple's jaunt into the news feed business could end up becoming a wagon hitched to a cannon ball: It might go up for a while, but at some point you're going to end up splattered on the floor.