updated 09:55 am EST, Wed February 16, 2011
Experts raise antitrust concerns
The Online Publishers Association is taking a critical stance toward Apple's new in-app subscription policies, according to a representative. The group includes several major publishers, namely Bloomberg, Forbes, Hearst, Time, Conde Nast and National Geographic. Its concern, claims association publisher Pam Horan, is the flexibility to serve customers.
Horan notes for instance that it is impossible to offer a bundle of print and digital subscriptions, as only digital options are allowed in-app, and publishers are banned from linking to outside sales portals. She also complains that most people will opt out of sharing extra information with publishers, used to build demographic data to attract advertisers. "Anything that requires the consumer to take yet another step is always going to reduce the number of people that participate in the process," says Horan. "It limits the ability to gather audience insights to build the right products. With this inability to know who your consumers are, it really affects the ultimate product for the consumer," she adds.
Experts contacted by the Wall Street Journal meanwhile suggest that Apple could run afoul of antitrust laws. Shubha Ghosh -- a professor specializing in antitrust at the University of Wisconsin Law School -- says he is "suspect" of Apple's subscription options. He contends that there are two main question: whether or not Apple is dominant enough to block competitors, and whether it is placing "anticompetitive pressures on price."
An antitrust professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, Herbert Hovenkamp, argues that "millions" will be spent in legal battles judging how broad the market actually is. He is skeptical of the whether or not Apple is dominant enough to violate antitrust laws, but observes that if the company locks up 60 percent of all digital subscriptions through the App Store, an antitrust complaint could "seem feasible."