Although publishers have looked to Apple's iPad as a potential savior, Apple has not unveiled a standard system for allowing digital newspaper subscriptions to be delivered via the new reading device. But such a plan is in the works and may launch soon, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Apple is prepared to share subscriber information with newspaper publishers, provided the subscribers opt in, according to the report. That's an important step that could allow publishers to deliver targeted advertising based on demographic data and other subscriber characteristics.
While Apple did not comment on the rumor, industry observers speculate the tech company could take 30% of subscription revenues and up to 40% of ad revenues from newspaper apps delivering subscriptions on the iPad.
For newspapers in general, the prospects for subscription sales of digital editions is still an unknown quantity, as consumer expectations have been molded by a decade of free access. One standout -- The Wall Street Journal -- has had great success charging for online access, but it occupies a fairly unique position as the provider of high-value business information.
The results of other online subscription schemes are not nearly as promising. On Monday it was revealed that Newsday has sold a paltry 35 online subscriptions since it began charging $5 per month for access last year.
However, many argue that consumers are more likely to pay for the convenience of a mobile subscription, and the iPad has been selling at a brisk pace, so the potential audience is growing fast.
A recent report from Forrester Research estimated total e-reader sales (including other devices like Amazon's Kindle) at 3 million units in 2009 and projected another 6 million units sold in 2010, for a total of about 10 million units when 2007-2008 sales are taken into account.