Report: Apple to Roll Out iPad Newspaper Subscriptions

Steve Jobs to allow publishers to sell tablet editions beyond single copies


Newspaper and magazine publishers, starry-eyed over the revenue possibilities surrounding Apple’s iPad, have been busy tweaking apps — most free, some paid — for the tablet since its much-hyped April launch.

Now, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News, Apple is expected to announce some sort of subscription option users of newspaper apps.

Representatives for Apple did not immediately return requests for confirmation and more details.

According to a digital journalism professor quoted by the paper, Apple would “probably will take a 30 percent cut of all subscriptions sold through the company's online App Store, and as much as 40 percent of the advertising revenue from publications' apps.”

In exchange, Apple “has agreed to provide an opt-in function for subscribers to allow Apple to share with publishers their information, which includes vital data that news organizations use to attract advertisers,” according to the report.

It’s not an ideal arrangement — it gives up a huge chunk of revenue (apparently) without the ability to bundle tablet subscriptions print versions of the paper — but one that publishers may be forced to accept, as the App Store is, at the moment, Ground Zero for tablet publishing.

Apple’s move would also seem to put it in quasi-competition with Next Issue Media, the platform and digital storefront being developed by a consortium of magazine and newspaper publishers, including News Corp., Time Inc., Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith.

But it doesn't appear to be an exclusive partnership. Last month, Time Inc.'s People debuted a subscription of its iPad application, the first magazine to sell iPad subscriptions through the store.

Before that, Apple had only allowed publishers to sell single copies for the iPad.

“This People app may signal the end of a four-and-a-half-month impasse that put the digital dreams of every major magazine publisher on hold,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Time Inc.-owned Fortune wrote while breaking news of the People deal. “It's not clear what took so long. Publishers who were encouraged to build iPad apps by Steve Jobs himself say were ready from the start to make them free to subscribers. Until now, however, Apple would neither give them the tools they needed, nor explain what was holding them up. The publishers still can't sell subscriptions through the App Store, which is how they would prefer to do it.”

That goes for newspaper publishers, too. Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is developing a "national newspaper" specifically for the iPad.