Here is Steve Jobs himself stating the Apple policy. ""Our philosophy is simple-when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing." Apparently publishers will be free to give existing subscribers to a print pub complimentary access to the corresponding app, and the publishers even can sell digital subscriptions outside of the App Store and give those users access to the apps. "All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app," Jobs says. "We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers."
The key piece in all of this, however, has to do with the precious data. Periodical publishers have been at odds with Apple over data sharing, since for most magazines especially, it is the user's name that has even greater value than the subscription fee. Until now, Apple has held this data tightly and driven publishers to loudly announce plans to deploy on Android and HP's WebOS instead.
This is clever of Apple. The move offers a model that should have been in place from the beginning -- but also brands the company as a privacy guardian. One of the most interesting and underreported stories around Apple's breakthrough success in mobile is how it has catapulted the company into entirely new relationships with media (relationships that have gotten increasingly rough through the years). The famously closed Apple OSes now have to learn to play nicely with third parties in ways they never did before. Ironically, this puts Apple in the same position the carriers found themselves in as smartphones began to rise. The carriers never really got used to being media companies, which meant having to share data, cooperate on marketing, and actually give others some measure of control.
Apple is smarter, but it seems to be making new rules for itself and its partners as they go along. Apple strategists recognize that they are as dependent on good content as every other part of the content distribution ecosystem. But they also know that the world loves them -- and all of their media partners are a bit scared right now.
Will this make the world better for newspapers and magazines? I sure hope so, because I continue to think that some of these companies really are thinking very hard about what mobile screens and delivery systems can do.
Today's launch of Sports Illustrated's annual Swimsuit Issue is a case in point. For those who have been rightfully complaining about paying high per-issue fees for magazines on the iPad, I would recommend them trying the $6.99 digital version. It is simply a better experience than print or the Web. The videos of bikini-clad models are all over the place, seamlessly combining the lean-back experience of thumbing the magazine with the lean-in experience of going to the SI Web site and getting the multimedia.
Even better, advertisers like RAM Trucks and SoBe drinks have integrated both multimedia and the swimsuit themes content exceptionally well. The SoBe iPad ad is among the most sophisticated ad-as-app I have seen, including an embedded contest that lets the users play photographer and grab the best shots of a body-painted model. The M&M ad is a full video of a female candy piece talking about her SI photo shoot and peeling part of her candy-coating. This is the kind of creative that makes me optimistic that periodical media finally are focusing on the digital opportunity to enrich, not just repurpose, themselves.