Apple Gives Publishers the Opportunity to Offer Subscriptions on the iPad

Publishers want to sell subscriptions and Apple wants to sell iPads; see how the two can work together

Pundits covering the iPad have been saying that Apple is not allowing publishers to offer subscriptions directly through the iPad. This however is not completely true. Apple is allowing publishers to bypass the Apple Store and offer subscriptions if they meet certain criteria.

How publications are offering subscriptions through the iPad

For instance, The Wall Street Journal is offering a subscription facilitated through the iPad. This subscription is what we at the Mequoda Group have been calling Universal Subscription Access. In this case of the Wall Street Journal, paying print subscribers are given a digital subscription for already being a subscriber.

The Wall Street Journal is able to offer subscriptions through iPad because they already have a subscription website for their content. A subscription website appears to be one of the criteria Apple looks for in allowing publishers to sell subscriptions through the iPad.

But why is a subscription website important to Apple? So far it seems that Apple doesn’t care about selling digital subscriptions; they are more interested in selling iPads. Therefore, by leveraging the content of publishers who already have a fan base, Apple is expecting to sell more iPads.

Dwell is another example of a publication that has gone digital and is offered in the Apple Store. Consumers who want the content on their iPad or iPhone can purchase a digital subscription of Dwell Magazine. The digital subscriber data collected from purchases is then made available to Apple and their app-partner, PixelMags. The only difference with Dwell is that even if you are a paid print subscriber, you still have to purchase a completely separate digital subscription for $19.99.

Publications with a strong subscriber base

Another publication that is offering a free digital subscription to print subscribers is People Magazine. Unlike, People Magazine does not have a subscription website. However, Apple is allowing current print subscribers to access digital editions through the iPad. This seems to be an example of Apple leveraging People Magazine’s large print subscriber base in hopes of turning them into digital consumers who end up buying iPads for the added digital content.

However, if you are not a print subscriber to People Magazine, each digital edition would have to be purchased separately and digital subscriptions cannot be purchased through the app.

More publications joining the digital revolution

The Boston Globe announced last week that it will also be creating a subscription website for paying subscribers. They too will offer universal subscription access, so that people already paying and subscribing to the print edition can get the digital access as well. The Globe also announced that they are developing a range of branded products for smartphones, tablets and other devices.

What this means to publishers

Most publishers don’t have the print subscriber base a magazine like People has. However, niche publications have a very devout audience that desires the content they are passionate about. From the models we have already seen, adopting a subscription website will likely become a core component to online publishing. This central nexus can also allow universal subscription access so consumers can get the content they want through the medium they prefer, be it on their home PC, a smartphone or a tablet like the iPad.

Statistics on these digital trends

The Harrison Group and Zinio recently announced the results of survey designed “to measure the extent to which tablet-based technologies, dedicated eReaders and related smart technologies benefit American consumers and their lifestyle interests.”

According to the survey, 86% of tablet users, 82% of eReader users and 62% of consumers in general are comfortable with “digital payment systems that debit accounts automatically for subscriptions.”

The study also found that the digital reading revolution is still continuing up, with 28% of those surveyed reading digital magazines or books. That number is up from 10% in 2008.

A willingness to pay for the content and the experience of reading digitally appears to be creating an environmental that will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

Universal Subscription Access

A Universal Subscription Access model may be the part of the digital revolution that makes it consumer friendly. Don Nicholas, the Executive Director of the Mequoda Group, has been discussing this concept for a while now. The model will allow consumers to experience the content they want through different mediums and devices. This universal access gives print subscribers free digital editions to show the benefits of digital content with added visual and audio components.

Since, according to the survey, 81% of tablet users and 79% of eReader users believe all forms of publications will be almost exclusively digital in the future, universal subscription access will allow print subscribers to become well acquainted with digital products without having to pay extra.

An interesting landscape has emerged for publishers and content consumers. The subscription website is becoming more important than ever before and promoting that website throughout the Internet is still imperative to the success of publishers. To learn how successful online publishers are utilizing their content to promote and develop larger audiences, join Don Nicholas and Kim Mateus on their upcoming Content Marketing 2010 Seminars Tour.


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