updated 10:55 am EDT, Wed July 28, 2010
May be hampering iPad publishing industry
Apple is currently preventing publishers from enabling subscriptions for iPad magazines, say several sources. Time, for example, is claimed to have wanted to put out a subscription version of the Sports Illustrated app last month, in which people would be able download issues via iTunes, but pay Time directly. Apple rejected this at the last minute, Time executives say, even though they had been in touch with Apple during spring development, and been assured that the company was alright with the plan. Time was forced to sell only individual issues.
The publisher's management has allegedly been "going nuts" since the SI debacle, trying to figure out how it can get Apple to allow subscriptions. At one point it was suggested that the company just pull all of its apps out of the App Store, but this was rejected. No other publisher has had success in enabling subscriptions either.
Hearst says it's getting around the problem by selling a bundle of magazines as a one-time purchase, with 30 percent of the revenue going to Apple as usual. Conde Nast is officially expected to have more to say about subscriptions within a month, but off the record, people in the company are described as stumped. "Don't get me started," one executive is quoted as saying.
Why Apple would reject subscriptions isn't known, but it's speculated that the company may be worried about how publishers would use the consumer data collected with each subscription, even though such collection is standard in the print world. Apple might alternately be worried about missed revenue opportunities, since allowing direct payment for subscriptions would cut the company out of some or a lot of income. The latter approach would be incongruous though, since Amazon and the Wall Street Journal can already bill customers directly in some cases.
Time says it hopes to offer in-app subscriptions "some time later this year." Apple's public response to the complaints has only involved pointing out HTML5 as an alternative. "We have two platforms that we support for apps of all types, including magazines: HTML5 provides an open platform for developers to create and distribute whatever they want, and the App Store which is a curated platform offering customers the largest offering of apps for any mobile device with over 225,000 apps and 5 billion downloads," a PR statement reads.