updated 10:55 am EST, Wed February 2, 2011
Industry group organizes London meeting
European publishers are angry and "confused" by new App Store rules introduced with the rejection of the Sony Reader app, according to Grzegorz Piechota, the European president of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association. Where it was previously possible to send people to a webpage to buy books or manage subscriptions, Apple is now demanding that any such feature be matched by in-app options. A meeting between INMA, the European Online Publishers Association and the FIPP magazine association is scheduled to take place in London on February 17th, with the specific agenda of tackling Apple's new subscription rules.
"Some [companies] say they feel betrayed," Piechota observes. Newspaper publishers are said to have initially embraced the Apple iPad as great way to provide access to their content, in many cases spending money on app development. "By promoting these apps, they promoted the device," says Piechota. "Publishers in fact helped to make the iPad successful on the market."
The president notes that Apple's communications have been inconsistent in recent times. "Apple has been contacting some publishers, and not contacting some. Some get e-mails, others get informal phone calls," he says. "The whole process of accepting or rejecting apps is not transparent. It's very hard to explain why some apps are being accepted and some are being refused; some apps allow you to read content that is bought somehwere else and others that won't let you do this.
"Even if you decide readers can buy a subscription in one area or another," he goes on, "there is a completely different business model behind them. Because Apple takes 30 percent of the transaction, that makes it harder and worse for readers because it will mean charging more for the iPad app to make up the revenue. Plus, even if you decide to sell subscriptions through this Apple's channel you lose all the customer relationship data."
French, Belgian and Dutch publishers are asking for government antitrust investigators for help. Piechota comments though that the process could be an expensive one taking years to finish, also damaging relations with Apple. "The first thing is a dialogue. As publishers we need to know what Apple is playing at," he adds. "Apple is becoming everything and maybe this is the reason for the problem. They are providing a device and a platform and they are proving the charging system. You are not free to choose. It reminds me of the antitrust problem with Microsoft and Internet Explorer."