Having reinvented the music, phone and computer-interface businesses, Apple is now targeting e-publishing. On Tuesday, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company made its new App Store subscription service available to any publisher.
The service is now open to all content publishers, including magazines, newspapers, video or music. The service was launched earlier this month with News Corp.'s The Daily, an iPad-specific publication.
Apple Keeps 30 Percent
When a customer uses the service to buy a subscription in the App Store, the same billing system will be used as has been used for apps in general. However, publishers are able to set the price and frequency of a subscription. The customer, with a single click, can then choose the length of the subscription and be charged accordingly. Cancellations can be made at any time from the customer's personal account page.
Apple processes the payment and keeps 30 percent. A publisher can still offer the subscription from its own or another web site, but not at a better deal than in the App Store. For subscribers that publishers acquire on their own, outside the App Store and using a separate software-distribution mechanism, Apple receives nothing.
Publishers cannot link to a subscription service outside the App Store from within their offering in the store. Any subscription offers made outside the store must also be made within the store.
"All we require," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, "is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one click right in the app."
While News Corp. publicized its launch of The Daily through the subscription service, many other publishers are expected to balk at the idea of a 30 percent cut and a fair amount of control over their subscription policies by Apple. In particular, the idea that Apple becomes their interface to the consumer, as it has to a large degree for music companies, is a situation at least some major publishers are expected to resist.
Unlike the landscape that existed when iTunes was born, the publishers now have some alternatives, not the least of which is the Android Market.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., noted that "Apple and the magazine publishers have been going back and forth about this for over a year." The publishers, she said, "don't want to get locked in."
She pointed out that Time/Life's Sports Illustrated recently unveiled a bundled deal that offers digital versions of its magazine to subscribers -- through the Android Market.