How Publishers Are Dealing With Apple’s In-App Subscription Policies

Apple’s deadline for app owners to run content subscriptions through iTunes or not at all may have passed on June 30, but compliance is emerging unevenly – or not at all.

A month after the deadline elapsed, e-book vendors and The Wall Street Journal (NSDQ: NWS) last week became compliant by sending subscription transactions within their own apps or through links to web-based sign-ups and, in *Google* Books’ case, by exiting the App Store entirely before returning with a compliant app. Publishers on iOS are no longer allowed to sell subscriptions within their apps using the in-app purchasing technology unless they give Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) a 30 percent cut of the transaction, and they also have to allow Apple control the personal data of subscribers.

But others remain in breach and, in one case we heard, have not even yet been asked directly to comply. It all suggests ongoing negotiations between operators and Apple over the thorny issue.

Here’s a brief list of how some major publishers have dealt with the deadline:

  • Spotify removed its link to web sign-ups in a July 21 update – “Compliance with new rules for subscription-based apps.”
  • New York Times apparently fell in to line with a July 5 update – “Subscribing is quick easy with your iTunes account.”
  • WSJ is ending all transactions inside iOS apps, saying: “We remain concerned that Apple’s own subscription would create a poor experience for our readers, who would not be able to directly manage their WSJ account or to easily access our content across multiple platforms.” But it hasn’t updated its iPad app since June 10th, and continues to promote a link at the bottom of the app to a subscription Web page.
  • Financial Times‘ app remains on-store and unchanged – in contravention, it still allows in-app subs but processes them through its own channel. It is Apple’s most vocal opponent on the issue and now urges users toward its HTML5 app instead.
  • The Economist allows existing subscribers to authenticate for read access, but no new transactions. However, it does offer a link at the bottom of its iPad app to a Web store.
  • Rhapsody told paidContent last month it would become compliant, and on July 21 it removed links from its app to a subscription sign-up page on the Web.
  • Hulu went into compliance with its Hulu Plus subscription app June 17. Subscribers can use the app but can’t manage accounts in it or sign up.
  • Kindle: The Kindle store was removed from the app last Monday, ending in-app purchasing.
  • Kobo‘s ended in-app transactions on July 23 – another service that now requires transactions from the web.
  • Subscription music service Rdio says right in the app description that it’s a subscription service and you can sign up at Our understanding is apps can mention subscription status and access but can direct anyone how to sign up — even in the iTunes app description.
  • Barnes & Noble removed the bookstores from the Nook and Nook Kids apps.
  • *Google* Books: The Google (NSDQ: GOOG) eBooks app was removed completely but is back.
  • Zinio: The magazine app updated July 29 to Zinio 2.0, proclaiming by press release its “frictionless, digital shopping experience” that allows users to “purchase single issues, back issues and subscriptions in-app, simply using their iTunes account.”

Staci D. Kramer, Laura Hazard Owen, and Joe Mullin contributed to this report.