iPad Newspapers Will Never Be Free, Steve Jobs Commands; Plus, The Daily Release Delayed


Steve Jobs has reportedly decreed that no paid newspaper subscribers overseas shall receive a free iPad edition through the App Store because that shorts Apple their 30% cut, according to the Dutch deVolkskrant, as relayed by AppleInsider. This comes on the same day MediaMemo announces that Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper The Daily, thought to be launching next Wednesday, will be pushed back “for weeks, not months.” What does it all mean?

Firstly, it means that publications will ultimately have to decide whether they want customers to purchase iPad subscriptions or physical subscriptions, because having people pay for both is a long shot. The newspapers, though, are still making more ad money in print, making for a media business conundrum detailed by The Awl’s Choire Sicha, in reference to the magazine world:

And so then those of us who are actually loyal subscribers to Vanity Fair and the New Yorker and all the other magazines, there’s just NO WAY we’re going to buy their iPad apps. Because in part we’re like, guess what, we were there for you in the dark days, we ALREADY PAY YOU, and this app should be FREE TO US, for one thing. (Right or wrong, that is definitely my feeling as a consumer, and yes, people are cheap and self-interested, but that feeling is strong, and the circulation desk whether for print or online has to work with human nature, not against it.)

And those who aren’t subscribers, well if they’re not willing to buy in for the actual magazine at like practically nothing a year, why would they pay for their iPad edition, which actually, in the case of Vanity Fair, costs $4.99 for the first issue? I mean, on the same web page that announces their $4.99 iPad app, up top they’re trumpeting their “ONLY $1 an issue” subscription rate. How is that even happening???

If Jobs’ new rules mean what they appear to, this discord between old print subscribers and potential iPad subscribers could now bleed into newspapers and their new apps.

But for now, according to AppleInsider, this is beginning only in Europe:

The alleged changes sent out to publishers by Apple come as the company is believed to be working on an update to iOS, its mobile operating system that powers the iPad, that will allow recurring subscriptions for software on the App Store. It is Apple’s preparation for the new subscription option that is believed to have allegedly delayed the release of The Daily, a new iPad-only newspaper from media giant News Corporation.

While a number of reports from overseas claim that Apple has contacted publications to inform them of the changes, no such reports have yet emerged from any newspapers in the U.S.

The Daily would be untouched by these changes even if they came Stateside because they have no print subscribers to worry about, but Jobs’ moves do signal a shift in the Apple-based subscription landscape. The Daily, whose launch Jobs will play a part in whenever it occurs, may very well be first to ride whatever wave the Apple chief is conjuring, but one thing’s for certain: he’s going to get paid.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 14, 2011

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