Apple Subs: Some Publishers Relieved They Dodged A Bullet

Despite concern, many publishers are actually “relieved” – they feared Apple’s new subscription rules would be a lot more damaging.

The overall reaction from them is positive,” Nic Newman of digital design agency Tigerspike – which makes apps for over 20 publishers including The Economist, The Telegraph, News Corp, NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) and ESPN (NYSE: DIS) – tells paidContent:UK.

Publishers were bracing themselves for the fact that Apple might turn off any subscriptions from outside of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). But, if you go to the detail of what they’re saying, you can still have your own subscription mechanism outside the app, as long as you also have something inside the app. So they’re giving flexibility.”

It now seems like those January reports of radical Apple demands, that publishers could not grant app access to their existing subscribers, gave newspaper and magazine companies heart tremors.

They turned out to be over-stated (existing subscribers can continue authenticating in apps). But several publishers which had been planning version-two or -three updates to their rudimentary debut iPad apps had delayed their strategic decisions by one or two months while awaiting Apple’s news, Newman told me.

On the whole, they see the new scheme as a net positive, he says, considering: “Why on earth would I leave an app to enter my credit card details when I could just do it in the app?” It took less than 24 hours for Future to announce it’s moving the iPad version of its its T3 gadget mag to the new subscription model.

But that’s unlikely to be the feeling across the board – many will baulk at the 30 percent rate if they’re not reassured that, whilst it will give Apple considerable margin, it will also grow publishers’ pies significantly.

What’s surprisingly clear, from reaching out to publishers, is that many are quite in the dark about just what the net impact will be, even though this story has been live for weeks. Some of those I contacted said they could not comment because they were seeking clarification from Apple on exactly that question.

The issue giving publishers most uncertainty, Newman says, is a clause in revised terms that would regard their subscriptions apps as “non-consumables’, a category Apple apparently says must include archive, as well as current, content. Publishers are seeking clarity from Apple on whether this means they must now include back issues in their subscription apps.