For Apple, Publishers, It’s One Step Forward, One Back

Apple has finally released its long-awaited subscription model for newspapers, magazines and other content-based apps sold in its App Store. As expected, the device maker is permitting publishers to sell subscriptions outside the App Store (which takes a 30 percent cut) and keep 100 percent of the revenue for themselves.
While the new guidelines address publishers’ long-standing desire to maintain a direct relationship with consumers, they come with a catch: Publishers will be required to provide an authentication process for subscribers, which is likely to be more cumbersome than Apple’s own one-click-to-buy process from within the App Store.
Another wrinkle comes with pricing. While Apple says publishers set the price and length of subscription and that it will allow publishers to provide the app free to existing print subscribers, it requires the subscription price offered by the publisher not undercut the price offered through the App Store.
That’s a tricky issue for publishers where print/digital bundles are concerned, as prices for print subscriptions can run the gamut due to publishers’ tendency to experiment with multiple offers as they hunt for new customers.
“Is that the 12-week price? One-year price?” fretted one publishing exec, speaking on condition of anonymity lest Apple reject the exec’s as-yet unapproved app. “It sounds unmanageable.”