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Apple clamps down on print-based iPad subscriptions

updated 12:40 pm EST, Fri January 14, 2011

Leaves void of options for publications

Apple has banned several European newspapers from granting print subscribers free access to iPad editions, reports say. The App Store doesn't currently offer support for in-app subscriptions, meaning that a publication must typically offer all content for free or else charge on a per-issue basis. A Dutch newspaper, NRC, claims that the hard cutoff point for linking free downloads to print subscriptions is April 1st.

The newspaper suggests that publications are upset the with the move, as it makes Apple "too dominant." The company notably takes 30 percent of the revenue for all App Store downloads, including in-app ones, giving it strong incentive to control how developers sell content. The high cost of paying issue-by-issue is believed to be hurting iPad publications however, something borne out by magazine sales.

Although no American publications have so far mentioned the subscription ban, it could potentially be crippling if it extends internationally. High-profile magazines like People and The Economist, for instance, are already tying iPad subscriptions to print. It's not clear if the crackdown is being directed exclusively at newspapers.

Apple may be paving the way for official subscription support at the App Store. It was originally rumored to be coming with iOS 4.3, but no evidence of it has so far been found in the developer beta. Implementation is thought to have been delayed, to the extent of affecting the launch of the The Daily, News Corp.'s flagship iPad publication. The app may now be several more weeks away.

by MacNN Staff



  1. jmonty12

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Of course Apple would restrict this

    Apple will never accept this payment model because it cuts them out of the revenue stream completely. Clearly Apple is all about making money on every app purchase, and is trying to make that a reality for its computers as well.

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This shows that for all Jobs' big talk on DRM in music, he still Doesn't Get It.

    Making digital media more expensive and difficult to use for people who have already shown themselves willing to pay will merely discourage them from ever paying for digital media. Those people (the ones who are willing to pay) know that -- at least for now -- they can pay and get a solid artifact, which they are then free to use repeatedly, keep as long as they like, lend to their friends and colleagues, or even photocopy. It is already a hard sell to convince them that they should be willing to pay even more (the device itself costs money, remember!) for something which erases its content over time and cannot be shared. By forcing customers to pay twice, Apple is not making more money, they are reducing the number of customers.

    Which would you rather have, a $0.50 profit from each of a thousand customers, or a $2 profit from each of a hundred? Apple has just indicated that -- at least in print -- it has chosen the latter, just as the MPAA chose the latter for music. This is foolish.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    They better not touch my Economist app. That system works perfectly, and I don't see why Apple should be getting 30% of a transaction that they had nothing to do with. I've been subscribed to the publication much longer than iTunes App Store has been around. Apple is really getting cocky here, and I hope the FTC or DoJ can bring them down a few notches before they disappear completely up their own arses.

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969



    They used a login system within the app itself for networked content, they didn't go for a web based view for the login. Apple is starting there own subscription service and don't want competing in-app logins for subscription content or confusion with multiple in-app logins.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It took actually following the link to figure out what Apple is doing here.

    All they are saying is that "Downloads of editions through the app store are for those who've purchased through the app store". This is the same argument they made a year ago when some pubs wanted Apple to push their updates out to people who paid the publications directly.

    They are not preventing the newspaper or magazine from providing digital copies. All they are saying is "These users are not going to get them from us directly. You provide them or pay us to provide them. Your call."

    So, you all can calm down. They aren't forcing you to pay twice. They're forcing the publishers to stop riding their coattails and provide their own free content.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Well....

    That is incorrect. They very plainly state that they are preventing publications from offering free iPad/iPhone downloads for content that's only available to print subscribers. This means that these publications would no longer be able to offer free versions of their apps to their subscribers, and that their subscribers would have to pay a second time for access to their content, with Apple getting their cut. This is incredibly aggressive on Apple's part, and basically means that these publications will have to switch to HTML5 apps instead of App Store apps, decreasing the value of the App Store.

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