Digital Content Next (DCN), a trade body made up of media companies including The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook Thursday following last month’s congressional hearing.
While testifying virtually before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee last month, Cook said renegotiated terms, like those with Amazon that allow the ecommerce giant to receive a more generous percent of revenue sharing for in-app subscriptions to Prime Video, were “available to anyone meeting the conditions.” Apple takes 30% of revenue from app developers for initial subscriptions purchased in its App Store and reportedly half that after the subscriber’s first year.
According to the letter, media organizations say they haven’t worked this hard to build their subscription businesses only to have Apple take such a big revenue share from the apps on its platforms. If Apple can offer other apps, such as Amazon Prime, fairer terms, publishers deserve a better deal, too.
DCN asked Cook to define those conditions so its members that satisfy them “can be offered the same agreement,” according to the letter signed by DCN CEO Jason Kint.
Spokespersons for Apple, NYT and USA Today did not return requests for comment. A spokesperson for The Washington Post, the publication Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns, declined to comment.
Reexamining publisher-platform relationships
The moment speaks to the tension between media businesses and Big Tech. How do you flirt just enough with those platforms to monetize your work with their reach and scale without giving away too much of what makes your company special?
Take the Times, as an example. The publication took steps to distance its business from Apple News and discontinued sharing content with the company last quarter over its terms. The Times vowed to continue working with Apple, but said the decision was “consistent with the core principles” guiding how it works with platforms, said Meredith Kopit Levien, the company’s soon-to-be president and CEO during its most recent earnings report.
“Quality news publications must be named and differentiated from other sources … the end-customer relationship and data should belong to publishers and that the original creator of content must be sufficiently compensated for its work,” she said.
Publications want their journalism on their owned and operated platforms, and there’s more pressure than ever to get this right. Media organizations are running against several timelines concerning data privacy and how they use it.
For instance, Google is expected to become the latest browser to phase out third-party cookies in 2022. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and other potential privacy legislation will further crack down on how data is collected and used.
These changes come, too, amid a recent influx of subscribers. Both the Times and The Wall Street Journal recently hit record-breaking subscriber figures, in part due to the increase in attention from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s a good pool to be swimming in. [Big Tech’s] businesses are built off of collecting as much data as possible to microtarget, and it’s also their biggest challenge,” Kint told Adweek. “They haven’t paid enough attention to premium quality content.”
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