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People iPad App Free to Subscribers

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The reported fracas over the People magazine iPad app may have ended up being much ado about nothing. The king of celebrity magazines made its debut in the App Store Aug. 19, which seemed to undermine reports in The Hollywood Reporter and elsewhere that the app’s launch was running into trouble over securing photography rights for its coveted celebrity pix.

The Time Inc. magazine said the app was always supposed to launch in August and that the timing was unrelated to its talks with its photo agency suppliers. Instead, the title was ironing out a subscription interface, which it claims is an App Store first.

That doesn’t mean People is offering a subscription option; Apple hasn’t made that option available yet. Instead, People subscribers can download each issue for free by verifying their identity. For everyone else, the price is $3.99, the same as the newsstand cover price.

Won’t such a practice leave money on the table for People, which has over 2 million subscribers? The magazine says its free policy acknowledges that its subscribers already pay a hefty price for the print magazine. Indeed, at an average sub price of over $100, People is among the highest-priced titles (the single-copy price, at just over $4, is nothing to sneeze at, either).

In charging nothing to subscribers, People joins a small but growing number of titles that are experimenting with lower prices for their apps than the print version, or at least lower prices for past issues, after consumers complained loudly about being charged the same price for an iPad issue as for print.

“People’s subscriber base is extremely loyal and pays a premium price for the magazine,” explained Martha Nelson, editor of the Time Inc. Style & Entertainment Group, in announcing the app. “We want them to have the ability to consume People content however they choose.”

The app features the contents of the current issue, along with extras. In the first issue, those will include a video of Katy Perry demonstrating the app; a video tour of Bethenny Frankel’s nursery; and videos of Leelee Sobieski with her baby and Tori Spelling with her family.