Publishers’ wary relationship with Apple and the iPad grew a bit more positive today as the company announced that they would allow magazine subscriptions to be sold on the platform.
In some regards the plan appears to meet many publishers’ key demands. They can sell iPad subscriptions on their own websites, keeping 100% of the revenue and collecting all the customer data they want. And they can elect to give existing customers free access to the iPad app, an ability that Time Inc.’s People magazine was able to secure but more magazines have not. But when a subscription originates within the App Store, where a huge proportion of sales will naturally occur, this plan may still leave publishers wanting.
The issue here is customer data. As AdAge points out, the most potent tool in the publishers sales kit is being able to tell advertisers exactly who it is that’s subscribing to their magazine. Publishers can get this information if people purchase the subscription from their Web sites. Not so much if the subscription is purchased through Apple.
Apple doesn’t automatically pass on any information on subscribers who sign up inside iTunes, nor on what they watch or read within the app. Apple will allow publishers to ask subscribers to share information such as their name and ZIP code voluntarily. Last week a magazine executive said that approach wouldn’t satisfy some publishers. “It depends on whether you’re optimistic on the opt-ins or pessimistic,” the executive said. “Some people would say that’s a good start. Others would say nobody is going to opt in.”
While not satisfying everyone, it’s good that a little detente has broken out. As Randall Rothenberg, Time Inc. Chief Digital Officer, explains, “It’s only been nine months for the world to learn a new form of retailing.”