Earlier this month, Apple Inc announced it is expanding its offerings on the Apple News app with audio versions of stories narrated by voice actors, a morning newscast hosted by two journalists, and more access to newspaper stories.
Apple revealed that there are currently 125 million monthly active users on its Apple News product, but did not disclose revenues or the number of subscribers to the paid version, Apple News+, which costs $9.99 a month.
The iPhone maker employs a staff of editors that curate the stories in both the paid and free versions of the app.
The concept of this new feature is that paying subscribers will gain access to audio versions of long-form articles published in popular magazines such as Esquire and Vanity Fair, as well as newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.
This expansion into audio has also ramped up the competition between Apple and Amazon and Google, both of whom offer audio news options on their smart home speakers, as well as Spotify Technology SA, which has recently been expanding its podcast business with news content.
Apple is also launching a weekday morning audio news program called Apple News Today, to be hosted by New York-based journalists Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino. The program will highlight stories from the publishers that work with Apple and will be available to both free and paying users, In addition, the news broadcast as well as the audio stories of the day will also be adapted for Apple’s CarPlay, the system that connects iPhones to many newer vehicles.
Apple also revealed it has plans to offer expanded access to local news in its app, starting with five metro areas in the United States: San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area, Houston, Los Angeles and New York. Apple will maintain editors in each area to curate local stories, and paying News+ subscribers will gain access to premium content from the local newspapers that are a part of the program. The company is yet to comment on when or if this feature will be made available to other countries.
Last month however, the New York Times left Apple News, saying publishers should be fairly compensated for their content and that the program is not aligned with its strategy of building direct relationships with paying readers.
In the current times of much uncertainty and unpredictability and in the era of fake news, providing easier access to credible and factual information is an astute business and social move from Apple.