News Corp. Delays Launch of First iPad-Only Newspaper
News Corp. has delayed next week's launch of its iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. The effort, undertaken in collaboration with Apple, is being delayed by issues with the subscription platform. While a new launch date hasn't been set, there are reports that the delay will be numbered in weeks, not months.
Apple's subscription system, a the first for its iTunes Store, is considered critical to the success of the project. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, a source "familiar with the matter" said the "the app and the service work," but the issue is "getting them to talk to each other."
Presentation at MoMA
The launch was expected to take place on Jan. 19 at a joint presentation by Apple CEO Steve Jobs and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This is the second delay, since the iPad newspaper was initially expected to be released last month.
The new digital-only publication will be priced at 99 cents weekly. But the effectiveness of the subscription system is expected to be at least as important as the pricing -- especially in how it handles the publisher's relationship to the subscriber. No current platform exists through iTunes, the funnel which Apple controls, that provides a subscription system acceptable to most publishers.
While a number of iPad publications exist, they are mostly ports of existing print magazines, and they are sold on the iTunes Store in a way that is not unlike the purchase of an app.
Waiting for Subscription Platform
Publishers are reportedly wary of giving Apple access to their subscription lists, so once the platform is operational and there are indications of how well The Daily is faring, there could be an acceptable iTunes model for publishers to build and manage subscriptions of digital periodicals. Until a viable subscription vehicle exists, publishers are relying on e-mails and other reminders to inform consumers when new issues are available.
Publishers and adaptations for the iPad were a large part of Apple's initial proposition -- that the iPad could help re-invent periodicals and books in the digital age. But the lack of a viable subscription platform has put periodical publishers at odds with Apple. The computer maker has already taken over the relationship between many record companies and music customers, and publishers are wary of the same thing happening to them.
Once a subscription is in place, the iPad and similar tablets could become a very hospitable platform for magazines, not only because of the media and display capabilities, but because of an installed base that is expected to grow to about 55 million units by the end of this year.