Newspapers and tablet PCs sound like a match made in heaven, and publishers are understandably eager to boost sagging revenue by launching iPad-friendly versions of their respective rags. So guess who reportedly wants to help -- for a piece of the action?Nothing's confirmed yet, but the San Jose Mercury News claims that Apple may be looking to launch an App Store-based subscription plan for newspapers that would involve taking a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue and a 40-percent cut of the ads (which, I'm guessing, would be served by by Apple's new iAd mobile advertising platform).
Industry sources tell the Merc that Apple (which has yet to comment on the story) would also offer an opt-in system for subscribers to share their demographic information with the newspaper -- information that's "vital" to selling ads, according to the Mercury News article.
A few newspapers have already launched iPad apps that require paid subscriptions, such as the Wall Street Journal ($3.99 a week) and the Financial Times (which, at $4.25/week, happens to boast one of the nicest, easiest-to-read newspaper apps I've seen for the iPad yet), while other publications are taking more of a wait-and-see approach. The New York Times, for example, has a free "Editors' Choice" app for the iPad with a limited amount of content, with a full-on paid edition expected once the Times erects a pay wall for its website.
But while an Apple-managed subscription plan for newspapers could entice more dailies to go the App Store way, newspaper publishers are said to be balking at the (supposedly) high price of admission. According to the San Jose Mercury News, publishers might be willing to pay a fee for working with Apple on digital subscriptions, but they're "not happy" with Apple's idea of a 30 percent cut of subscription fees and an even larger share of the ads.
And then there's the issue of print editions of newspapers, with one analyst quoted by the Mercury News noting that publishers are afraid readers will drop their print subscriptions in favor of digital "too quickly" without "a comparable growth in advertisement revenue" from digital and tablet versions. Indeed, according to the article, newspaper publishers had been thinking they'd serve up iPad apps in a bundled deal with their regular print subscriptions, presumably to keep the revenue from print ads flowing smoothly.
Well, speaking purely for myself here, I can understand newspaper publishers being wary of forking over 30 and 40 percent shares of their subscription and advertising revenue. They're nuts, however, if they think they're going to sell me an iPad version of the paper plus the print edition. I'm sure there are plenty of newspaper readers who still get a rolled-up paper tossed on their doorstep every morning at 4 a.m., but personally, I haven't had an actual print newspaper subscription in years, and I'm not interested in going back. But hey -- that's just me.
For now, anyway, all the App Store newspaper subscription talk is academic, given there's still no official word from Apple about such a plan, and I'm sure there won't be until when -- or if -- the plan is actually hatched.
So, would you subscribe to the tablet version of a national or local paper through the App Store -- or, say, through the Android Market, if that were an option? And would you want the print edition bundled with the tablet version?
San Jose Mercury News: Apple to announce subscription plan for newspapers