Apple’s ‘Netflix for magazines’ gives marketers plenty to chew over

Plans are afoot for Apple’s new magazine subscription service.

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Barely a week goes by when we don’t hear of a new service described as the ‘Netflix of xxx’.

But very few have the financial and subscriber clout of Apple. And it really is some serious clout – 250 million paid subscriptions and counting.

As such, when Apple makes further strides into the world of magazine and newspaper publishing, all content publishers and marketers should keep a close eye on proceedings.

The latest

Last month, Apple acquired Texture, the digital newsstand business.

Texture offered access to 200 magazines for $9.99 a month, or $14.99 to include some weekly titles too. And it had huge names on board – from Time (more on that here) to Glamour to Rolling Stone.

As reported by Bloomberg, the acquisition is part of Apple’s expansion of its Apple News service – itself already an expansion of its Newsstand app.

Currently, magazine and newspaper subscriptions are sold separately through Apple News. Apple takes 15% of the money from subscriptions sold in the App Store.

The expected move to the ‘Netflix model’ of access to multiple titles through one subscription fee would no doubt have implications on the percentage splits between platform and publisher. But there’s been no word of such details as yet.


On an editorial level, one issue it raises is that of the content’s subjectivity.

For tech magazines reporting on the comings and goings at Apple HQ, for example, should they really be relying on Apple’s support for distribution and hosting privileges? And will they steer clear of negative stories about the tech giant, wary of biting the hand that feeds?

This issue of hiding damaging stories isn’t new, of course. There are Twitter accounts dedicated to highlighting the tiny apologies dished out by tabloids, for example, when they’ve published apologies for misreporting stories, or hidden away negative headlines in tiny paragraphs near the back.


On a wider marketing level, there are worrying aspects in terms of content control.

Opening up content to subscribers of a larger platform has mixed results. With an array of titles available for the audience, there is an inherent danger of creating a browse-but-don’t-engage culture.

Just look at Facebook’s news feed. For companies advertising on the platform, the average click-through rate is just 0.90%. And that’s the ads. Standard business posts are now being de-prioritised by the news feed algorithm and lost in the maelstrom.

It’s all very well having access to a wide user base, but the cod-philosophical question remains: if content is never clicked on, does it really exist?

Even the media companies seem reluctant to foster a situation where all the power is in the platform itself. Netflix continues to pump billions into creating original content ($8 billion in 2018, apparently) rather than relying on content produced elsewhere. This despite a reported 80% of users only watching licensed shows – i.e. not the original stuff.

What about marketers?

The workings of Apple and Netflix can seem of marginal relevance to most businesses, and perhaps especially B2B marketers operating in a totally different market.

But the waves and fluctuations of mass consumer behaviour are, of course, always relevant to any audience-facing organisation.

How do you keep control of your content? A paywall is an obvious – and very much in vogue – option. B2C titles such as The Times, The Telegraph and, soon, the New Statesman are betting on paywalls as the future of content consumption.

For B2B marketers, the naturally reduced audience makes that proposition somewhat trickier.

But the continued rise of ‘Netflix-style’ content aggregation is something that we can take more direct inspiration from.

A content hub can provide that sense of aggregation and curation: a range of contributors and topics that creates a useful, varied and sector-relevant selection of content.

Here at Progressive Content, we created ContentLive for RBS Group, for example. Likewise, the Clive content hub for the employee benefits provider Unum.

Timely, original, engaging content expanding on its subject and generating a relationship with the audience.

We’re not saying it’s the Netflix of B2B content, but…