Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Morning Brief: Magazines begin offering annual subs through the Apple App Store; Hickory makes history

The Bonnier magazine Popular Science was one of the first to update its iPad app and begin offering annual subscriptions through the App Store.
The Popular Science+ app was updated yesterday and the only change to the app listed in the description was the added ability to buy a one-year subscription for $14.99 directly through the app.

“Our iPad readers let us know they wanted the ability to buy annual subscriptions using their existing iTunes account, and we’re happy to deliver on their demands,” said Gregg Hano, VP, Group Publisher of Bonnier’s Popular Science on the magazine's website. “A yearlong subscription to the digital magazine will bring the cost per issue down significantly, rewarding loyal customers while still giving them access to the high-quality extra interactive content, video and custom design that only the digital experience can offer.”

The Hachette Filipacchi Media property, Elle, also updated its Elle US app yesterday adding an auto-renewable subscription plan, as well. The Elle subscription is priced at $18.99 for a year's worth of magazines.

WoodWing Software, The Netherlands-based company which provides digital publishing solutions to publishers, was quick to announce this morning that they are ready for the change in subscription policies. WoodWing said that the company's tablet publishing solution now offers support for the new subscription schemes offered by Apple.

“This new option is a major step forward on the way to establish the iPad as the digital media channel of choice for magazine and newspaper publishers,” Hans Janssen, CEO of WoodWing Software said in a company release. “By instantly supporting the new iTunes option to subscribe to the iPad editions of newspapers and magazines, WoodWing meets the needs of both customers and publishers worldwide. For customers, it’s the convenience that counts, and for publishers, it opens up interesting new business opportunities.”

But while Bonnier and Hachette Filipacchi have been adapting to the changing subscription rules, for some companies the change appears onerous.

Rhapsody issued a statement yesterday that all but says they will pull out of the store unless Apple is more accommodating.

"Our philosophy is simple too – an Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 percent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable," Jon Irwin, president of Rhapsody said in a statement. "The bottom line is we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple’s 30 percent monthly fee vs. a typical 2.5 percent credit card fee."

In the meantime, there is still time for all parties to make adjustments. Apple has set a June 30 deadline for developers to make their apps compliant with the new subscription rules.

"We will continue to allow consumers to sign up at from a smartphone or any other Internet access point, including the Safari browser on the iPhone and iPad," Rhapsody's Irwin wrote. "In the meantime, we will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development."

So will we see lawsuits, or a push for antitrust action?

I think opposition to the new Apple subscription policies among magazine and newspaper publishers is overblown. Take this article in today's NY Post. "The plan appeared to land with a thud," Keith J. Kelly writes.

But like an Iraq War story that purports to say there are weapons of mass destruction out there but provides no evidence, Kelly's story fails to quote even one publisher who is upset with the policy. In fact, the story quotes Hearst as saying "We're pleased to see subscription agreements coming to the tablet world."

Instead there is one anonymous quote that states that none of the big publishers have come forward to say they are on board -- something that was instantly proved in correct with the two updated apps mentioned above.

In the end, I think we will find that newspaper and magazine companies will not find too much objectionable in the new Apple subscription policy. The real problem lies in those media companies that offer "subscriptions" to services such as music and video streaming. Netflix, Rhapsody and others aren't going to want to lose 30 percent of their revenue to Apple, just as they wouldn't want to lose that revenue to a television maker or stereo manufacturer. Sony doesn't get 30 percent because the DVD you bought is being played on their DVD player. So Apple will have to adjust its policies to recognize that sometimes Apple's iPad or iPhone is a marketplace, and sometimes it is just a "media player" -- retailers and distributors get paid, manufacturers of devices do not.

It's complicated, but it would help if Apple brought in some media professionals to help them out. (Yes, I'm available! The Peninsula is a great place to live.)

OK, what's the real news today: well, of course, it's last night's winner of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. let's go to the LA Times write-up:

It's official: History was made when judge Paolo Dondina of Italy awarded the Westminster Kennel Club dog show's coveted Best in Show title to Hickory, a Scottish deerhound, on Tuesday night.

Hickory, a 5-year-old female whose full name is GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind (the GCH stands for Grand Champion), is the first Scottish deerhound ever to win Best in Show at Westminster.

Photo courtesy of The Westminster Kennel
Club website

All hail Paolo Dondina for being the first judge to recognize the obvious: Deerhound's rule, Poodle's drool (or something like that). Well, in any case, as the former owner of a Deerhound I can tell you that we didn't need a dog show to tell us that Deerhounds are magnificent animals. But it is nice to see one finally recognized as Best in Show.

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