The reality of publishing newspapers and magazines for Apple’s iPad – a New York Times article

With all big news and magazine publishers investing considerable funds into the applications for the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer, it is interesting to read an article in a major newspaper, The New York Times (which incidentally has an iPad app), about the reality of the iPad/App store business model.
The New York Times article says that Apple has only allowed a few favored publishers to sell by subscription, such as The Economist and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation with both The Wall Street Journal and The Daily (an upcoming exclusive iPad publication). To date, the other major US publishers, including Condé Nast, Hearst and Time, have had to sell the iPad version of their publications one edition at a time.
This apparently frustrates consumers as much as the publishers: “If you look at the Apple store,” said David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, which offers five publications on the iPad, “the most common reason that people give an app a low rating is that it lacks a subscription option. They want to subscribe, and they don’t like the idea of paying $4.99 a month.”
The article also states that in addition to limiting magazine sales to single issues, Apple has declined to share consumer data, meaning the Hearsts, Condé Nasts and Time Incs of the publishing world know nothing about the people who are buying their digital magazines.
The article doesn’t mention whether the New York Times has been allowed to sell its iPad version on a subscription.

Read the full NYT article:
For Magazines, a Bitter Pill in iPad

With the level of competition in the tablet space – Hearst, Condé Nast and Time produce content for rival platforms such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Android and BlackBerry – it seems bizarre that Apple isn’t bending over backwards to please all the big publishers interested in investing in apps for its nascent iPad.
This must be particularly frustrating for publishers that have seen sales of iPad editions falling each month – this WMD article quotes sales figures lodged by publishers with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
A cynic may point out that 12 monthly, 52 weekly or even 365 daily downloads each year for each newspaper or magazine, rather than a single download plus subscription, all helps that cumulative application download figure… Apple is counting down to the download of its 10 billionth app. Though clearly there must be much more to Apple’s apparent intransience with such important publishers than that.
It also appears from this Apple Insider article that Apple has told publishers that they can no longer give away their iPad app for free to subscribers of their print edition, presumably as Apple is unable to take a revenue cut from free apps.

Sorry to be predictable, but why don’t publishers address the tablet market via Web apps? Then they can control their own subscription model and their subscriber data, and wouldn’t have to share a substantial proportion of their 30 percent of revenues with any app stores.

Suggested reading:
• Mobile applications: native v Web apps – what are the pros and cons?
• What is a mobile Web app? Here’s expert opinion from the W3C

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