CUPERTINO, CA - MARCH 25: Roger Rosner, vice president of applications at Apple Inc., speaks during a company product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park on March 25, 2019 in Cupertino, California. Apple Inc. announced the launch of it's new video streaming service, and unveiled a premium subscription tier to its News app. (Photo by Michael Short/Getty Images)
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(CNN Business) —  

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

How many people are willing to pay $9.99 a month for a bundle of magazines and news websites? Apple doesn’t know. But the company is about to find out. In a bid to help the news biz and help its bottom line, Apple is assembling some of the country’s biggest news and magazine publishers for a service it calls News+.

This service is a big deal. It’s is available right now to iOS users. And Apple is looking for additional partners.

At the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino on Monday, I spotted execs from Condé Nast, News Corp, New York Media, the LA Times and other firms. Here’s my recap of the event. In sum: Apple is taking Texture, the “Netflix for magazines” app it acquired last year, and turning it into News+. Texture (which never attracted a big audience) will be shutting down at the end of May, and its users will be steered to News+. Apple is pitching access to 300 magazines, plus a select group of other outlets.

“This is really important to us. We believe in the power of journalism and the impact it can have on our lives,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at Monday’s launch. The message: Apple is a friend to publishers, not a foe. But not everybody is buying it…

Can Apple help smaller papers?

The NYT and WaPo decided not to join Apple’s news bundle. But the WSJ and the LA Times are on board. (There’s some confusion about what, exactly, the WSJ is providing to Apple. The paper charges a lot of $$$ for digital subscriptions. Scroll down for the details.)

For now, regional and local newspapers are not part of the News+ package. I suspect some publishers will be interested in talking with Apple about potential deals…

Hundreds and hundreds of staffers…

Apple says the company has hundreds and hundreds of people working on News now: Editors like Apple News EIC Lauren Kern curating articles… engineers working on the app… marketers selling News+ subscriptions… and so on.

And the company plans to take News+ around the world…

What the WSJ is doing

The WSJ’s Lukas I. Alpert, covering his own paper’s deal with Apple, calls it a “significant shift in strategy.” He says the goal is to “draw in new readers and paying subscribers without undercutting the publication’s core business.” How so? If the Journal charges $39 a month, and Apple is opening up a new door to Journal content for $9.99 a month, isn’t that a problem?

Well, a memo from Dow Jones CEO William Lewis framed it differently — he said the Apple deal will “drive scale among new readers” and “as a result, our newsroom will grow.” Lewis said “WSJ members will continue to have exclusive access to the rich business reporting and analysis about which they are so passionate.”

But it sounds like News+ subscribers WILL have full access to Journal articles. The paper is, perhaps cleverly, trying to have it both ways. As Alpert wrote here, “the Apple app will surface stories thought to be of interest to a general reader — that could be national news, politics, sports and leisure news, but also some business news, people familiar with the situation said. The paper’s entire slate of business and financial news will also be searchable within the app, but the thinking is that most users won’t consume much beyond what is actively presented to them.”

The Journal is hiring…

In a follow-up memo on Monday, WSJ exec editor Matt Murray said Apple “has the potential” to grow the Journal’s audience “further and farther, and at a much faster rate, than we have experienced before. That’s an incredible opportunity.” He said the paper plans to hire “several dozen people in the coming weeks, including reporters in politics, US News and features, as well as editors,” in part to serve the Apple News audience. Jennifer Hicks will be editor of news partnerships, in charge of the Journal’s presence on Apple…

Dow Jones and Apple are working together

I see Rupert Murdoch’s fingerprints on this! The memo from Lewis to Dow Jones staffers said that “our collaboration with Apple will also extend to areas like video, voice, market data and AI. I will have more to share on those plans in the coming weeks and months.” Very interesting…

Apple’s original shows will debut this fall

Monday’s event was a showcase for Apple’s TV app; its new TV Channels storefront; and Apple TV+, an ad-free subscription service for a forthcoming set of TV shows, movies and documentaries. Reporters grumbled afterward about the lack of detail, since Apple didn’t share a launch date or a price tag for the new service. But the company did give everyone a glimpse of what’s coming. Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, the former Sony execs who were poached by Apple nearly two years ago, appeared on stage for the first time… And spoke about “a new service dedicated to the best stories ever told…”

→ Cook: “We feel we can contribute something important” to society “through our great storytelling.” This is key. Apple says it isn’t just dipping its toe in the TV waters. This is a big bet for the company…

Apple’s version of a TV upfront

Frank Pallotta emails: Apple’s event on Monday didn’t feel like a normal “one more thing” affair that ends with a brand new innovative piece of tech. Instead, it felt like a TV upfront. Apple brought out Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and other starts. But instead of talking to advertisers, the stars were talking to Wall Street analysts, reporters, Apple super-fans, and viewers watching at home. The viewers were left wanting to see more of the actual shows…

Recode’s recap of Peter Kafka’s story: “We still don’t know what’s in Apple’s video service, how much it will cost, or why we should pay for it…”

– Matt Donnelly’s Variety story about Spielberg’s on-stage promo for Apple: “Many industry watchers were shocked by his proximity to a streaming platform only weeks after appearing to lobby for considerable changes to Netflix’s eligibility for Academy Awards…”

Lowry’s analysis

Brian Lowry emails: Apple’s star power — and much-buzzed-about Hollywood plans — might have actually been the least distinctive aspect of Monday’s presentation, at least, for anyone who has ever sat through an upfront presentation. In a way, it felt like the opening acts — in news, gaming and credit cards — overshadowed the ostensible headliner. Read the rest here…

Introducing “The Morning Show”

Apple’s secretive drama set inside the world of morning TV now has a name: “The Morning Show.”

I’m interested in this for a couple reasons: One, because I’m a consultant on the show, and two, because staffers at “Today,” “GMA” and other real-life shows have been wondering what this fictional show is all about. Co-stars Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell dropped some hints during Apple’s event: They said the show will pull back the curtain on “the power dynamics between men and women” in the workplace.

Hmmm. Think about how A.M. TV has been reshaped by the #MeToo movement…

Long on celebs, short on details

CNN Business deputy tech editor Heather Kelly emails: Apple’s big Hollywood announcement was long on celebs (hi, Big Bird!) but short on key details, like how much its TV streaming service will cost. The company didn’t say how much TV+ will cost. It didn’t reveal how much the new gaming service Arcade will cost, either.

What is clear is that Apple wants to collect money from its users monthly — instead of every few years when they upgrade devices. The company also hammered home its privacy features, like the new Apple Card credit card that won’t share data with marketers or advertisers. It’s a brilliant selling point at a time when other major tech companies are struggling with the side effects of, and scandals around, their data-collecting, ad-based business models. However, while it’s beginning to look like people who want privacy online can have it, it seems to be a luxury reserved for those can afford Apple devices and services…

A standing O for Oprah

The crowd applauded wildly when Oprah Winfrey took the stage on Monday. Her content deal with Apple includes documentaries and a rebooted book club — but not a regular talk show. In her comments, she summed up a key part of Apple’s pitch to Hollywood: “They’re in a billion pockets, ya’ll. A billion pockets!”

Sandra Gonzalez emails: “Oprah’s conversations with authors for her book club won’t be putting her back in front of a broadcast TV-sized audience… It’s putting her in front of a BIGGER one! Consider this my early appeal to have these conversations staged in front of a LIVE AUDIENCE and not in a boring, empty studio…”

FOR THE RECORD

Here, Sandra Gonzalez has a complete recap of the shows Apple teased on stage… (CNN)

– Shira Ovide’s critique of the Apple event: “Even Oprah Can’t Paper Over Apple’s Services Flaws” (Bloomberg)

– Andrew Wallenstein nailed it: “The blinding wattage of all the assembled stars (from both sides of the camera) at #AppleEvent is a very muscular demonstration of how ‘top shelf’ Apple TV+ aims to be. Very on-brand for a company that strives to be best of class in everything it does.” (Twitter)

– Susan Chira is succeeding Bill Keller as the editor in chief of The Marshall Project…

Read more of Monday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

– Gerry Smith’s latest for Bloomberg: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is creating a “Trump bump of her own for the news media…”