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Sam Costello

Apple Planning Newspaper Subscriptions for iPad?

By September 15, 2010

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Apple's on the cusp of introducing a system by which newspapers will be able to offer subscriptions via iPhone/iPad apps, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.

No word on when this will arrive, but reportedly the plan will include user data being shared with newspapers (for ad sales and circulation purposes), and Apple getting up to 30% of the revenue from subscriptions and up to 40% of the revenue from ads in the app editions of the paper. This news conjures up a lot of thoughts/reactions in me:

  • It's about time! This was part of the early promise of the iPad and it's been slow in coming.
  • 30% of subscriptions and 40% of ad revenue? Yikes! That's a pretty bitter pill for newspapers to swallow, I bet. Apple's pretty good at flexing its muscle in the markets it's strong in - here's another example.
  • I wonder if those percentages will either scare content providers away from the platform or cause them not to be able to make enough money to reverse the decline in revenues from their print operations, and thus not save their businesses the way many in the industry had hoped.
  • Does this mean that we can start getting ad-subsidized digital subscriptions, the way we do with print editions? I don't want to see a $50/year subscription to Wired (for instance) when their print subscription price is $12 or whatever.
  • Hopefully the model extends to include magazines and comics, too.
  • Will this mean we can start seeing some more attractive options on content pricing? I like comics, I have all the comics apps, I think I've bought 6 comics total since I got my iPad (and those were for research). While I understand that US$1.99/issue is fairly reasonable for a single comic, I'd like to be able to buy big chunks at discounts. For instance, I'm interested in reading the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams issues of X-Men, but I'm not going to spend $30-$40 to do so (especially when I can buy them in print for $15ish).
  • It seems that publishers are still trying to figure out how to price for digital. We've had the reports of the Wall Street Journal charging more for digital than print subscriptions (I thought that was a paper for people who are good with money?) and Time releasing app issues as expensive as its print editions. I'm not sure they understand that the world has changed and that they can't go back to the business they had 25, 40, or 60 years ago. Costs are high, no doubt. But wouldn't their businesses be more sustainable if they weren't all in NYC?

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