Apple's Latest Payment Policy For Media Apps Has Pitfalls

  • by September 3, 2021
Apple this week said it will let media apps link to sign-up pages that bypass the App Store’s payment system for subscriptions. The planned change promises to give publishers a way to avoid paying a 15% to 30% commission to Apple, though it’s unclear whether publishers will be able to offer discounts to readers who sign up for a subscription outside of an app.

Apple announced the change as part of a settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), which had investigated the iPhone maker for suspected violations of the country’s anti-monopoly law. The tech giant also faces regulatory scrutiny of its App Store rules in other countries.

Starting early next year, Apple will apply its looser payment policy worldwide to “reader” apps that are used to consume magazines, newspapers, books, music and video content. The category of apps may include everything from The New York Times to Netflix, as determined by Apple.
“Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account,” the company said in a statement.
Apple will still collect a commission on in-app purchases of subscriptions, claiming that the App Store provides “safest and most trusted payment methods for users.”
The company has been making concessions to publishers amid criticism of its control over the distribution of software for iPhones and iPads. As part of a proposed settlement of a class action by software developers, Apple last week said it would let apps alert users to alternate payment methods outside of an app. The company also introduced its News Partner Program that offers lower commissions on some in-app purchase subscriptions.
However, Apple also has introduced a variety of privacy restrictions that makes it more difficult to track online audiences, potentially diminishing the value of publishers’ digital ad inventories. The next version of software that runs devices, including the iPhone, will let Apple customers hide their internet address information in the Safari web browser, among other changes.
It would be helpful if Apple would let publishers offer incentives, such as discounted subscriptions to readers who sign up at a website. Visiting a publisher’s site may be too much of an inconvenience for some Apple users who can readily make an in-app purchase through the company’s payment system.
Apple may also prefer to funnel subscribers through its Apple News+ digital newsstand, which parses out payments to publishers based on how readers consume content. The company doesn’t disclose how many people subscribe to Apple News+, and the traffic it generates may be inconsequential to publishers that seek incremental reach for their advertisers.



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