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Apple is buying Texture, a digital magazine subscription app from prominent publishers — a sign that the company is deepening its interest in becoming a major distributor of news. 

Texture – formerly known as Next Issue Media – aims to be a virtual newsstand that gives readers access to roughly 200 magazines, including the Atlantic, Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart Living, and Vanity Fair, for $9.99 a month.

The infusion of cash, technology, and most importantly, a powerful potential distribution channel for Texture’s content could help put it in the hands of many more readers. 

For Apple, the purchase of Texture is also an opportunity to highlight the company’s role as a trusted news distributor at a time when the American public is worried about the credibility of information from technology giants. Apple’s approach to pressing questions of news reliability and the role of human curation differs from rivals Google, Facebook and Amazon. While Facebook and YouTube rely almost exclusively on software tools to decide what news people will see – Facebook fired its news curators in 2016 – Apple has a human editorial team for Apple News, the company’s news aggregator app that comes pre-installed in smartphones. Human editorial teams also work for the company’s podcasts app and Apple Music.

In a statement on the company’s website, Apple emphasized its focus on trustworthy news sources – a subtle dig at Silicon Valley rivals that have helped to spread false news and disinformation.

“We’re excited Texture will join Apple, along with an impressive catalog of magazines from many of the world’s leading publishers,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, said in a company press release. “We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users.”

With high-profile industry backers and a collection of the nation’s most popular titles, the Texture app was an attempt to help the struggling magazine business gain footing in the smartphone era. The joint effort from rival publishers, which began in 2009, shortly after Apple’s launch of the app store, reflected a desire to save print media from massive readership declines and move the industry toward new habits of media consumption. The company was based in Silicon Valley and largely backed by publishers in New York.

In a joint statement, publishers Conde Nast, Hearst Magazines, and Meredith said the acquisition will help further their mission.

This new relationship with Apple not only will deliver new audiences and further the reach of our collective brands, but reflects the way consumers are engaging with media today as they look to discover content and subscribe with more convenience and ease,” the statement said. The publishers referred further questions to Apple.

An Apple spokeswoman said that the tech giant didn’t have immediate plans to integrate Texture’s content into Apple News, the company’s news aggregator app, and that the deal had not yet closed. The company would not disclose the purchase price.

In recent years, publishers’ attention has largely been focused on working with Facebook to distribute content. Roughly two thirds of Americans get some of their news from social media, according to an August 2017 survey from Pew Research Center.

But Facebook has become a tricky and sometimes fickle partner for publishers. In January, the company made major changes to its new feed app that reduced the amount of news that Facebook members see. The decision was frustrating to many news publishers that had directed resources toward finding audiences on the social network.

It is not clear whether Apple would be a better partner to news organizations than Facebook, said Daniel Kreiss, associate professor in the school of media and journalism at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Apple’s announcement suggests that the chief executives of technology companies are deeply concerned about the rise of disinformation and the role their platforms have played, and that concern has enabled publishers to “more assertively argue for their value” when negotiating with powerful tech platforms that have become the predominant way people get their news, he said.

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