Is Apple loosening its grip on its apps?

The word on the street is that Apple is about to relax its iPad subscription rules, a move likely to be welcomed by newspapers and magazine publishers.

MacRumors, a site much trusted by insiders, says Apple will no longer require publishers to offer subscriptions through its app store at the same price or less than offered elsewhere. Apple currently takes a 30 percent cut of subscriptions bought through its app store.

Some publishers, including members of INMA, the international news industry association, have been critical of the size of the cut. They expressed their displeasure about some of the guidelines laid down by Apple in February, when the company unveiled its subscription service for digital newspapers and magazines on the iPhone or iPad.

Publishers were also critical that Apple would not share data on who was using their apps or about how they were using it. That kind of information “crucial”, the INMA said.

In a move perceived largely as a response against Apple’s restrictions, the Financial Times recently announced a new iPad app, entirely bypassing Apple’s iTunes store.

Analysts quoted by the FT said that this move would encourage other publications to emulate this breakaway strategy. Condé Nast, the global magazine publishing house, also recently announced plans to “slow the introduction of brands to Apple’s tablet.”

When the rules were originally announced, Apple said there would be no revenue share for digital subscriptions sold through a publisher’s own website. But “that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less” within an application on the Apple devices.

According to MacRumors, Apple is due to remove that requirement in the latest version of its subscription guidelines, which are due to take effect on June 30.

“Content providers may offer in-app subscriptions at whatever price they wish and they are not required to offer an in-app subscription simply because they sell a subscription outside the App Store as well,” MacRumors said.

Apple’s subscription service was first offered with The Daily, a digital newspaper for the iPad tablet computer launched earlier this year by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

With print advertising revenue and circulation declining, Murdoch and other newspaper and magazine publishers have been looking to the iPad and the Web to boost revenue. — AFP



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