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Apple can do to news what it did to music

In 2001 when Apple launched iTunes, the music industry was faced with its first digital shock.

Published: Thu 11 Jun 2015, 10:05 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:50 PM

Napster, which started in 1999, had created a mini revolution by allowing free and easy music sharing. Free digital downloads were becoming a rage too. Music giants were unable to come up with an option that could keep people away from inferior, but free, access to music. In came Steve Jobs, the late founder-CEO of Apple with iTunes. It was a platform where music companies could sell their songs for 99 cents, if they agreed to allow single-song downloads which was against the prevalent practice of selling complete albums. This simple innovation — along with elegant design and interface that is the hallmark of Apple — veered people to paid music. At first slowly, and then in droves. iTunes today sells music worth nearly $15 billion every year, bulk of which goes to music companies.

News media industry today isn’t in a very different situation than music industry was at the turn of the millennium. Internet has made access to news easy, universal and mostly free. More people are consuming more news than ever before, but traditional revenue models are under stress, to say the least. In the US, for example, 61 per cent of people under 30 years of age consume most of their news on Facebook — for free. Google and Facebook now earn billions of dollars by helping people access content, without owning any content. Google did become a source of revenue for news organisations, but not of the size that could sustain newsroom operations.

Apple News could offer to the news organisations all that Google, Facebook and other digital and social media giants did not. It could involve news organisation right from the start and more transparently. Most importantly, Apple should offer a more generous revenue model that helps newsrooms invest in great stories. Without that no news, including Apple News, has a future. Apple is credited to have reinvented computers, music and mobile phone. It is attempting to reinvent the wristwatch. News is next.

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