Along with today's launch of the Daily
publication for the iPad, Apple also rolled out the new in-app subscription feature of iTunes that will support it. Now, devs and publishers can create free or paid apps that contain content users will have to subscribe to, a feature that people have wanted for a while. However, not everybody's happy about it: some European publishers say they feel "betrayed
" at how Apple is dealing with in-app content delivery after the Sony Reader controversy
During the Daily announcement, Apple VP of Internet Services Eddy Cue said very little about in-app subscriptions, though he promised that there would be more information about that soon. However, if you downloaded anything from iTunes today, you probably noticed that the Terms and Conditions had been updated yet again to cover the new In-App Subscriptions rules, so there's some details we can glean from that. Subscriptions will all be handled through a new Manage App Subscriptions section in iTunes, and you can apparently subscribe for varying time periods, such as weekly or monthly. You will be able to set your subscription to renew automatically, and you won't be charged for the next subscription until 24 hours or less before your current subscription expires. If the subscription rate goes up, your auto-renewal will be automatically canceled. through a new section in your iTunes account.
The exact size of the cut Apple takes is not known at this point, but it's probably safe to assume that it's close to the 30% they skim for apps and in-app purchases. This, among other things, has publishers in Europe up in arms
. "Because Apple takes 30 percent of the transaction," Grzegorz Piechota, the European president of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association says, "that makes it harder and worse for readers because it will mean charging more for the iPad app to make up the revenue." The whole idea of running subscriptions through Apple remains a sticking point. "If you decide to sell subscriptions through this Apple's channel," says Piechota, "you lose all the customer relationship data
Apple's inconsistency and vagueness about the rules may sound familiar to devs who have struggled with App Store acceptance criteria. "Apple said yesterday that that in their policy with Sony Reader, they are not changing anything, just enforcing existing rules
," complains Piechota. "But when they talk to publishers direct, they are saying something else." And it's not just publishers who are mad: the economy minister of Belgium is opening an investigation on "whether Apple is guilty of abuse of power." While it's not clear yet whether readers will flock to the new style of publishing, it's already creating waves.