A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged subscriptions

There’s a new journalism aggregator in town, called Compass – and it’s attempting to be a Netflix for news.

Compass News - the app

Isolde Walters spoke to Matilde Giglio about the subscription-based app:

It’s a bit like your Facebook timeline but instead of that girl you used to go to school with who is in the Caribbean yet again and endless dog videos, it’s all serious quality journalism. Maybe a little too serious. One criticism I would make is the selection of heavy political and economic news did make me feel like I was running through the reading list of a PPE undergrad. I’d recommend a little thoughtful fluff – I’m a big believer in fluff – to add a little glamour and human interest to the mix.

That’s a smart insight. Any product like this that only surfaces serious news will fail, because the market for serious news and only serious news is too damn small. Can you show me any major newspaper or magazine that doesn’t have a lighter element? Chances are if you can, it’s a “need” publication – trade press, scientific journals – rather than a choice publication.

A Netflix for news could work. But a Netflix for only serious news? Never.

A little context here: there have been numerous efforts to build something like this before. They’ve been described, variously, as “an iTunes for news” or a “Spotify for news“. We’re on to “Netflix for news” now. There was News International’s much-rumoured attempt to build an iTunes for news, before abandoning it and going for paywalls. There’s Blendle which is still around. There’s magazine subscription apps like Issuu.

I suspect they struggle because they’re caught between the opposing poles of loyalty to a particular news brand (through political, cultural or geographic affiliation) and the free flow of news through Facebook and Twitter. Best of luck to Compass – they’ll need it.

Richard Horgan:

From north of the border, a rather interesting new revenue experiment. Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, this week announced the launch of a new monthly in-house subscription service: Headline Coffee.

Yup, a coffee subscription service from a newspaper much like the wine clubs that many UK newspapers have. Makes good sense: coffee and headlines are just a perfect combination.

Mmm. Coffee. Aeropress time.

(My faourite UK coffee subscription of the moment is Pact Coffee, which has no newspaper links, but excellent beans. Give it a try.)

You know, the publishing business might not be doing itself any favours with its fervent opposition to the Apple subscription terms. The more posts like this that appear, the more our reputation diminishes:

Put simply, publishers don’t want readers to opt in, because they know readers will prefer to opt out. Transparency is not a friend of publishers who for decades made a mint by selling out readers to advertisers and list brokers. Most readers may not be aware of this, but those who are don’t like it. Publishers know that and hate Apple for calling their bluff. If personal info harvesting isn’t essential for publishers’ business model and it is in the interest of readers, then why would they be against an instant referendum in the form of the opt in button?

User data is valuable, and will be part of the business model we build in the future. But we need to be significantly more transparent about what we collect, why we collect it – and what the benefit is to the user. Apple is, in effect, challenging us to persuade the user to click “yes”. Can you do so?

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A couple of interesting links, that make an excellent aperitif to my last post:

The whole discussion about the charging structure for subscriptions that Apple announced earlier in the week has left me rather bamboozled. It feels like rather a lot of people have missed something rather important about this iPad thingamajig.

You see, there’s a super-secret way to get all your content onto an iPad without Apple charging you a dime for it. If you look really carefully at your iPad, in amongst all those clumsy, slow, print-replicating magazine apps you’ve downloaded is a blue-ish icon which looks a little like a compass:


Found it? Cool. Now click on it. Yes, it’s called the web. You can access the web on your iPad. Blimey! Who’d have thought it?

You could put your content up on something called a web site, for free, or with a paywall, and have your customers access it that way. On their iPads. And Apple doesn’t charge.


Sarcasm aside, I think the rather bizarre belief in some quarters that the iPad will magically recreate our content packages of old and restore the traditional business model of publishing (debunked here) is at the root of the outrage shown in some quarters over Apple’s charging structure. People have obsessed over apps to such a degree they’ve forgotten they’re just one route from your servers to a customer’s eyeballs.

Apple is offering a shopfront, a payment processor and (for the app itself) hosting facilities. For that, they’re charging you 30% (and then only for customers that come to you through Apple. For customers you acquire yourself? Still free.) As Shane Richmond has pointed out, that’s pretty damn close to what publishers pay newsagents. And there aren’t many publications which ONLY sell to newsagents. If you want on the iPad app system, those are the terms of business. And some publishers are doing so. If you’re not prepared to pay the cost of accessing the platform, then build a pretty damn compelling web offer instead.

If you don’t think you can do that, and you don’t think you can find a business model that accommodates Apple’s terms on payment and user data, well, you have worse problems than this 30% charge, frankly.

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Photo Feb 03, 3 14 50 PM

Following on from yesterday’s launch of The Daily, iTunes has changed its terms and conditions. Above is a screenshot from my iPad, when I was asked to agree to the new Ts and Cs earlier today.

See the last line of the changes there?

…and that we may request permission to provide personal information to the Publisher for marketing purposes.

That means in-app iPad subscriptions are no longer a void of information. Apple no longer has to own the relationship with your subscribers…

photo (1)I saw a lot of buzz overnight about Apple not allowing magazine subscriptions on the iPad, and OMG how is the iPad going to save us now? Steve, you have betrayed us!

Except, well, that’s simply not true. You can buy subscriptions to publications on the iPad – I have ones to The Times, The Spectator and a photography magazine. There are various routes for selling those subscriptions, and one that’s specifically disallowed. Here’s John Gruber to explain:

Here’s the difference, I think. With Amazon and the Wall Street Journal, users set up and create their accounts on the web, not within the iOS apps. The WSJ app requires a subscription that doesn’t go through iTunes, but you create, pay for, and manage that subscription on the web. Judging from Kafka’s description of the Sports Illustrated situation, it sounds like Time tried to add its own direct billing subscription system within the Sports Illustrated app itself.

Gruber makes the very valid point that all this OMG! PANIC! would go away if Apple would just clarify its rules, though…

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cafe91feedreading.JPGDan recently asked how many RSS (or atom) feeds I subscribe to, and how I manage them.

Let’s start with how many. Well, in my main subscription group, I have just shy of 400 feeds. I have two other subscription groups, but I’ll come back to them in another post. Those feeds generate up to 1,000 post per day.

Yes. yes, I know. I have a problem. I’m an addict. So we’ll gloss over that and move on to Dan’s second question: How do I manage them?

(The rest is behind a cut to spare those whose eyes are glazing over already.)

Well, my principal tool is NetNewsWire, an RSS reader app for the Mac, owned by Newsgator. And my timing’s good for writing about this, because it’s just been made free. Gratis. For nowt. (Newsgator has given some reasons for this)

Why do I use it? Three reasons:

  1. It’s a friendly, fast way of diving through feeds
  2. It synchronises between computers, so it’s up to date on my MacBook and my iMac at home. And, in theory on my PC at work, too, if I could get IT to let me install FeedDemon.
  3. It synchronises with the Newsgator online service, which I can access on my iPhone

Generally, I try to do my reading in two chunks: once first thing in the morning, and once after lunch. I used to go through the various topic-based folders one at a time, but recently I noticed some folders tended to get neglected badly. So, I weaned some feeds out of those, and now I read all the feeds combined the the general “Latest News” folder.

To see how I use NetNewsWire in more detail, click the pic below:

netnewswire in action

My single worst habit in my feed reading is spawning umpteen tabs with pages I want to comment on, post about or just peruse in more detail. So, to all the bloggers who have written fantastic posts that I’ve marked to deal with later – and then never come back to: sorry. You deserved better.