Washington Post Aims for iPad App Subscription, Will Apple Stop It?

Washington Post launches an iPad app and plans for paid subscriptions while controversy surround rules around publishing apps

Recently Washington Post launched an iPad app in preparation of a new paid-subscription model which has everyone wondering, will Apple try to stop it? Most publishers have been selling single-editions of publications (not full subscriptions) because of various issues with Apple like not having access to geographic location which is vital for user marketing. Publishers also have to share over 30% of revenue and are not able to charge for content that is readily available on the web for free. Large publishers like Washington Post are trying to find ways around Apple’s rules stating that the app is considered “interactive” and different from web versions of content because it showcases content while creating “social media on the go” because articles can be tweeted and shared.

The subscription plan set to start in February 2011 will charge readers $3.99 per month for non-subscribers and $0.99 a month for print subscribers, leaving some to speculate that WaPo might put up a paywall. If content on the web is not “readily available” then that would give more validity to a subscription plan. This would be one of the first iPad apps from a major publication requiring a subscription.

Since Apple controls what can be approved in its iTunes store and publishers like Washington Post are desperate for new revenue streams, an agreement will need to be reached eventually. Similarly to Facebook and Zynga reaching an agreement earlier this year, the relationship between platforms and publishers is a complex one. Unlike the love-hate relationship many publishers have with Facebook, Apple is not dependent on WaPo traffic so leverage is currently in Apple’s favor.

Should Apple stop Washington Post from charging iPad readers a subscription or will rejecting another source of revenue force the post to lock up its current website?