Report: Apple Accelerating iPad Newspaper Subscription Efforts

| Rumor

Apple has been accelerating its efforts to bring a newspaper and magazine subscription service to the iPad, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Citing unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” the newspaper said that Apple was working on trying to get the service launched within the next two months.

Apple is working on the project from two fronts, according to the report. The first is trying to get more publishers signed up for the deal, an effort specifically described as being accelerated by Apple. At the same time, however, Apple is also still supposedly working on the technology of the service itself. Some of The Journal’s sources said that Apple may hold off for a launch in the first quarter of 2011 because of the technology issue.

While the sources weren’t named, the companies Apple is supposedly negotiating with were, and they include Time Warner Inc.’s Time Inc., Condé Nast, News Corp. (which owns The Journal) and Hearst Corp. The sources also said that Apple is telling these companies it has one major publisher signed up, but mum’s the word on exactly which major publisher that is.

The sticking point, as reported earlier, is Apple’s insistence that it control the subscriber data and the company’s desire to take 30% off the top in exchange for providing the service, the same deal Apple gives book publishers, app developers, record labels, and TV and movie studios.

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Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The unmentioned issue is how well Apple’s technology will work with existing publishing processes. There are two known epic disasters in iPad magazine publishing for which some numbers are available: Wired and SI.

Wired and Adobe spent gobs of money adapting their publishing platform to produce a “compliant” iPad app. Which reminds me that Nemo once said Apple would never waiver on Flash-based apps, but that’s another story. The Wired app, while impressive, was dogged for being 500 MB and costing $5. From sales estimates, it appears that Wired might be netting between $100K and $200K per issue, which at the low end, could take years just to payback the publishing system customizations.

And then there’s SI. Their stuff was lauded for being all HTML5 and just an amazing example of what iPad mags could be. So today, Gizmodo pointed out that SI can’t afford to present in portrait mode, which is a symbolic epic fail for the whole concept of mags on iPad right now.

Apple seems to be asking the magazine publishers to take some big risks and give up margin and information. Defining the publishing platform and tools is probably going to be too much to ask. The publishers don’t want to get Jobs’d like the music industry did.


I’ll try to stay on topic and talk about the issue of dollars.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right.

Thirty percent off the top of every dollar I pay for each song/album, movie, TV show/series and app sold through iTunes Store goes to Apple; Disney gets the other seventy percent.

This would be an Apple/Disney ratio of 3-to-7; therefore Apple makes 43% as much as Disney in total profits.

But then, what is the profit percentages (and ratios) for Disney et al. from hardcopy sales and rentals and other on-line transactions.

If Apple gets its way, I wonder if iTunes could become Apple’s biggest bread winner.


Yes Brad, but Wired sucks and has always sucked, in paper or binary, so their failure is expected.

SI, on the other hand, is owned by Time, a magazine for children (as The Onion News so brilliantly points out in one of their sendups). Children (and I count some of my adult male friends in that category) don’t buy digital magazines, their parents do. I never buy it, they never have Valentino Rossi on the cover!


@Brad: “The publishers don?t want to get Jobs?d like the music industry did.”

Yeah, they don’t want their jobs to get saved by Jobs, like the music industry did! Right.

Bryan Chaffin

The publishers don?t want to get Jobs?d like the music industry did.

Brad, I have to vociferously disagree with the sentiment behind that statement. Apple brought the music industry kicking and screaming into digital distribution, and the company delivers enormous profits to the labels, despite the labels’ best and continued efforts to screw the pooch.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bryan, not fair. You’re the guy who spent years convincing me that DRM wasn’t good for either the customers or the labels. Find me someone who thinks that DRM and iPod tying weren’t the vicious, er virtuous, circle that handed Apple its marketshare in both music distribution and music players. I don’t think Apple anticipated that, but they damned sure know the recipe now.

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