Apple's newspaper subscription plan may be a half-measure
San Jose Mercury News
John Boudreau reports that Apple is close to enabling publishers to offer subscriptions for their mobile content apps. Boudreau quotes longtime tablet evangelist Roger Fidler of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, who predicts the deal would provide customer information to publishers, with Apple retaining 30 percent of subscription revenues.
If true, the arrangement would be only a partial victory for publishers. Leading media organizations -- including The New York Times, Conde Nast and Time Warner -- have been lobbying for a subscription mechanism in the iTunes store since the iPad was unveiled in January. Their goal has been to offer not only digital-only subscription options, but also hybrid, print-digital packages.
Boudreau reported that Apple declined to comment for his story, but Fidler's comments seem to indicate that the subscription mechanism being considered is less than newspaper and magazine publishers had hoped for:
However, last month People magazine showed how a publisher can develop its own solution for a print-digital package. The magazine launched its iPad app with a $3.99 cover price, with free access to current print subscribers.
Perhaps in the near future, publishers will be able to use iTunes for their digital-only subscribers and go outside iTunes to enable free access to their print subscribers. That could be done by authenticating tablet users against their print subscriber databases, as People apparently is doing. All that, of course, would be dependent on Apple's rules and regulations surrounding the subscription program.
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