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Apple is buying Texture, the digital magazine distributor

A message from Apple to big publishers: We like you.

Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue onstage at the Code conference
Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who runs its media business
Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Apple is getting into the magazine business — not by buying magazines, but by buying a digital magazine distributor.

Apple has purchased Texture, a subscription service that lets users consume all or part of more than 200 magazines. The service works on both Apple and Android devices, and Apple says that won’t change after it completes the transaction.

Texture is owned by a consortium of big publishers, as well as private equity firm KKR, which put $50 million into the company in 2015.

Texture was first assembled in 2009 and launched in 2012 as Next Issue Media. It was an attempt for big publishers to own their own version of Netflix or Hulu, and give them control of digital distribution instead of being cut out by Apple or Google.

It eventually rebranded the service and de-emphasized the concept of magazines. Instead, it pushed the idea that your $10-a-month subscription gets you access to the world’s best articles, curated based on your particular interests.

Apple hasn’t disclosed a price but I’m told KKR will at least get their money back and that the publishers who started the company — Conde Nast, Hearst, News Corp and Meredith (which now owns Time Inc., another founder) — are happy with the deal.

It’s hard to believe the deal is important for Apple’s financials — when I talked to Texture CEO John Loughlin in 2015, three years after the service launched, he said Texture had “hundreds of thousands” of subscribers; in 2016, he gave the New York Post the same range — but it does add a business line that features recurring revenue, like Apple Music and other media services, which represents Apple’s fastest-growing line item.

At least as important: The deal is a link between Apple and the media companies that owned Texture, which comes at a time when media companies are increasingly vocal about their beef with big tech companies.

Which is why this press release quote from Apple media boss Eddy Cue — “We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users” — may mean more than the standard boilerplate.

Cue is going onstage at SXSW in Austin, Texas, today to discuss Apple’s media ambitions. Expect him to discuss this deal as part of that conversation.

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