Apple News jitters, Instagram goes shopping, and chatbots rise again


Tim Cook


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In less than a week, Apple is set to announce a range of services including an all-you-can-read subscription news bundle, and it’s causing a lot of angst for publishers already worried about big tech eating media. I talked to publishers who were pitched by Apple, and they say the phone maker is basing the business model on a flawed comparison between news and music.

To date, The New York Times and The Washington Post have not joined, but The Wall Street Journal is having productive talks with Apple and is expected to join, people familiar with its thinking say.

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Here are other good stories we’ve been reporting:

‘It helps Facebook further fortify its walled garden’: Instagram is testing in-app checkout to make shopping more seamless, but experts say it has a bigger agenda
Instagram is rolling out a checkout button to make it easier for people to shop from the platform. It shows how Instagram has been making shopping a bigger priority in recent months and is also an attempt by the company to gather more data, experts say. The move could threaten companies like Curalate that have built businesses on bridging the gap between browsing and purchasing on Instagram.

A product Comcast launched 2 years ago was supposed to disrupt AT&T and Verizon’s business — now experts see it as something totally different
When Comcast launched its Xfinity Mobile cellular service in 2017, Wall Street analysts predicted it would skyrocket, adding more than 2 million customers a year. Two years later, that prediction hasn’t materialized, despite a strong launch, according to analysts at Cowen. They examined how Comcast has used Xfinity as a retention strategy rather than a way to grab share from other wireless providers.

New research shows how The New York Times, Economist, New Yorker and other top online subscription publishers stack up
As publishers jump on the subscription bandwagon, a new survey by Dynata, formerly Critical Mix, for Business Insider found that three publications hog most of the online news subscriptions: The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Most of the respondents who have subscriptions reported they subscribe to just one or two publications. They’re pretty happy with their subscriptions, making it unlikely they’ll drop them. Our survey shows how 12 publications stack up to each other.

Alamo Drafthouse’s movie-ticket subscription plan will launch in all its theaters by the end of the year
Movie-ticket subscription services have seen a surge in popularity, and now Alamo Drafthouse is getting ready to join other theater chains in launching its own service, Alamo Season Pass, nationwide at all Drafthouse theaters by the end of the year. The unlimited plan will cost $20 a month in most regions of the country, and you’ll also be able to reserve seats.

A tech firm that builds chatbots for big brands like Macy’s and Alaska Airlines is acquiring a bot startup to corner the messaging market
As more marketers experiment with messaging and chatbots, 10-year-old firm Conversocial is acquiring bot startup Assist. Chatbots have lost some steam as brands have struggled to promote them on the social platforms. But with Facebook putting more emphasis on messaging, Conversocial sees a big opportunity with the acquisition. 

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Director Alex Gibney looks back on a career of profiling liars and shady characters, from Elizabeth Holmes to Lance Armstrong, and crowns the most despicable

Media agencies are under massive pressure to reinvent themselves. Here’s how the biggest ones, including Horizon Media and PHD, are evolving to meet clients’ demands.

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