Apple Squashing iPad Magazine Subscription Plans

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All Things Digital reports on Time Inc.'s struggles with Apple as it has tried to roll out a true subscription program for its Sports Illustrated iPad application, an option that Apple continues to be unwilling to support.
Last month, the publisher was set to launch a subscription version of its Sports Illustrated iPad app, where consumers would download the magazines via Apple's iTunes, but would pay Time Inc. directly. But Apple rejected the app at the last minute, forcing the Time Warner (TWX) unit to sell single copies, using iTunes as a middleman, multiple sources tell me.

Since then, Time Inc. executives "have been going nuts", trying to figure out how to get Apple (AAPL) to approve a subscription plan. One of the more desperate suggestions, which apparently didn't get traction: Pulling the publisher's apps out of the iTunes store altogether.
The reasons for Apple's reluctance are not entirely clear, although the theories are ones that have been around for some time: Apple may be concerned over subscriber information being held by the publishers rather than Apple itself, and the company may be working to retain control over and profits from magazine sales by pushing downloads through the App Store rather than through publishers.

As the report notes, other entities such as The Wall Street Journal are permitted to bill users directly for iPad subscriptions to their content, and thus it is unclear exactly why Apple is targeting magazine subscriptions so closely. But until the stalemate is broken to allow publishers to offer subscription packages or print-electroinic bundles in some way as most parties seems to desire, it appears that magazine users will be limited to the single-issue purchases prevalent in the App Store today.

Article Link: Apple Squashing iPad Magazine Subscription Plans
 

muchadoaboutnot

macrumors member
Jul 27, 2010
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Apple is going to work in recurring billing into iTunes and will take a cut of every subscription. The motive is obvious.

As far as the WSJ being able to bill directly and have a subscription app, magazines are new and the WSJ app has been approved. Who is to say that Apple won't force them to follow the same rules that they're putting on magazines?
 

atomicbatteries

macrumors 6502
Jan 31, 2010
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I'll tell you one thing I am sick and tired of paying $5.00 an issue for SI or Time and apple is just being ridicules. they should pull the magazines from itunes cause people are fed up with the lack of an annual subscription.

What is wrong with you all, just greedy little pigs!
 

JPark

macrumors 6502a
Jun 5, 2006
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It's a little suspicious considering the ties Apple has to Disney and Disney to ESPN. Sports Illustrated is likely ESPN's biggest competitor.
 

daddywags214

macrumors regular
Sep 26, 2006
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Vancouver, BC
I know people are going to freak out about Apple being "draconian" and "money-grubbing" but I see this as a legitimate debate because Apple is, in effect, becoming the publisher of the iPad edition of SI or whatever other magazines. Therefore, they have a right to claim money that would otherwise go to the (print) publisher. I'm sure they'll work out a deal -- we'll just have to be patient.
 

SpamJunkie

macrumors regular
Jun 3, 2003
164
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The magazines don't want to use apple's in-app purchases to sell the upgrades, and Apple doesn't want some hokey (and potentially confusing) payment system.

As for the 30% cut, I really don't think Apple cares about it. It's just to cover costs. They make their money on the devices and the App store is just to sell more of those.
 

muchadoaboutnot

macrumors member
Jul 27, 2010
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It's a little suspicious considering the ties Apple has to Disney and Disney to ESPN. Sports Illustrated is likely ESPN's biggest competitor.
Apple likes end to end integration, especially when it not only reduces confusion for users, but makes them money.

They're going to mandate subscription billing goes through iTunes.

Apple would be insane not to work on this right now. Subscriptions are big money and are very consistent. There are a lot of benefits to mandating Apple has some degree of control over subscription signup:
  • Apple can create a consistent, convenient interface that's consistent for every magazine.
  • Since the credit card is tied to the iTunes account consumers are always ready to make purchases, and they already trusted Apple enough to give it (and, for the majority, to buy something). They also get a cut.
  • All sorts of things that could make people upset regarding funky billing or not being able to cancel get put in Apple's lap. Subscriptions under your account in iTunes.
  • They can mandate a standard way to put out subscriptions, and that'll probably use an API that will allow the iPad to get pushed the magazines automatically.
 

Small White Car

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Aug 29, 2006
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Lame.

Apple, you don't have to do everything, you know. Trying to be the only publisher, distributer, profiter, etc is not the way to go. It's ok to allow other companies to make some money out of the iOS ecosystem. It'll be better for you in the long run if you do.
 

Bubba Satori

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Feb 15, 2008
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I know people are going to freak out about Apple being "draconian" and "money-grubbing" but I see this as a legitimate debate because Apple is, in effect, becoming the publisher of the iPad edition of SI or whatever other magazines. Therefore, they have a right to claim money that would otherwise go to the (print) publisher. I'm sure they'll work out a deal -- we'll just have to be patient.

My computer and monitor are "publishers"? :confused:
That's a bit of a stretch.
 

ValSalva

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Jun 26, 2009
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Probably specific to Sports Illustrated. Maybe those painted on bikinis in the swimsuit issue are an affront to Apple's delicate sensibilities ;)
 

muchadoaboutnot

macrumors member
Jul 27, 2010
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0
Don't get why this can't be accomplished with in-app purchasing.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but...

When you authorize an in app purchase, you can only do it for individual items, correct? Not any sort of subscription basis?

Although you could just allow the in app purchasing of a year or two years worth of issues, so I'll have to give you this one.
 

Ted13

macrumors 6502a
Dec 29, 2003
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There may be a pro consumer way of reading this: what WSJ, FT, etc. have in common is a paywall that affects everyone equally.

What Apple is trying to avoid is charging iPad users for data that non-iPad users are getting for free?
 

Full of Win

macrumors 68030
Nov 22, 2007
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Ask Apple
This is an issue because of a lack of foresight from Apple. Apple so missed the boat when it did not include a Zinio type presentation with iBooks. What is the alternative publishers have? Make it in ePub and kill all the formatting and presentation.
 

cvaldes

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Dec 14, 2006
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I'll tell you one thing I am sick and tired of paying $5.00 an issue for SI or Time and apple is just being ridicules. they should pull the magazines from itunes cause people are fed up with the lack of an annual subscription.
What are you blathering about?

The content publishers decide whether or not to assess a subscription fee, not Apple. If you don't want to pay the subscription fee, don't pay it.

You are welcome to visit m.si.com or mobile.time.com for free with your phone's web browser.
 

Popeye206

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Sep 6, 2007
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Remember...

There are always two sides to a story AND Apple knows that what ever they do with new content will set the standard... so I'm sure they are very cautious not to just give away the farm since the farm they've built is worth Billions today.

Call it Money grubbing if you want, but Time, Apple, SI all of them are in business to make money... I'm guessing Apple is trying to protect it's part of the pie. Nothing wrong with that.
 

muchadoaboutnot

macrumors member
Jul 27, 2010
44
0
There may be a pro consumer way of reading this: what WSJ, FT, etc. have in common is a paywall that affects everyone equally.

What Apple is trying to avoid is charging iPad users for data that non-iPad users are getting for free?
Are the magazine sites blocking the iPad based on the user agent of mobile safari (in other words, couldn't you just avoid paying for it by visiting the magazine site? You'd miss the cool presentation, but so would anyone else enjoying the free lunch on another device.)

I don't own an iPad, so I wouldn't know :p
 

reubs

macrumors 68000
Jun 22, 2006
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Probably specific to Sports Illustrated. Maybe those painted on bikinis in the swimsuit issue are an affront to Apple's delicate sensibilities ;)
Curse! You took my thought. With the way Apple posts sentries of decency around their walled garden, my initial thought was that this was to keep the Swimsuit Issue from showing up on the iPad.

If that's the case, I guess something like Esquire doesn't stand a chance at all in getting a subscription model onto the iPad. Frankly, magazine subs are one of the main reasons I want an iPad. Until those are really, truly available (and not through crap like Zinio), I have a hard time shelling out the cash for an iPad.
 

SpamJunkie

macrumors regular
Jun 3, 2003
164
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As an app developer, the ability to sell subscriptions would be awesome. I'd immediately start working on an MMO with subscriptions.
 

mdude85

macrumors member
Jun 26, 2010
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I know people are going to freak out about Apple being "draconian" and "money-grubbing" but I see this as a legitimate debate because Apple is, in effect, becoming the publisher of the iPad edition of SI or whatever other magazines.
Yeah, but Apple doesn't actually make the iPad edition, they just distribute it.

I think it will be interesting to see what happens when Apple is forced to lift some of its restrictions on 3rd party apps.
 

binarymelon

macrumors member
Jul 27, 2007
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To be honest I'm not sure why Apple has allowed any of this in the past. Many app publishers are getting around Apple's cut for pay apps by charging subscription fees. Remember the Milk is charging $25/year to use their "free" iPhone app.
 

muchadoaboutnot

macrumors member
Jul 27, 2010
44
0
Probably specific to Sports Illustrated. Maybe those painted on bikinis in the swimsuit issue are an affront to Apple's delicate sensibilities ;)
Ah, a very good point. Apple may want to prevent companies from pushing out content under a subscription that offends their sensibilities/App store policies (although the Wall Street Journal or other apps could do the same so it's still unusual).