New App from Financial Times Challenges Apple

Financial Times gives publishers a new option

One recurring note at the just-concluded SIPA 2011 Conference concerned Apple’s decision a few months ago that they will begin to keep 30% of the revenue from new subscriptions and media purchases made in an iPhone or iPad application through its App store. Knight Kiplinger, editor in chief of The Kiplinger Washington Editors, mentioned it on Monday: “Like a lot of publishers, we have to figure who we want to do business with, whether it’s Apple and their 30% and wanting to control our subscriber relationship or Google, who may be easier to deal with.”

On Tuesday, another option appeared. The New York Times reported today that The Financial Times, the British daily, has “introduced a mobile Web application aimed at luring readers away from Apple’s iTunes App Store, throwing down the gauntlet” over Apple’s impositions. The Financial Times has designed a new app “that includes much of the functionality of an iPad or iPhone application, while residing on the open Web.”

The app employs a new Web technology standard called HTML5, “which allows programmers to create a single application that can run on a variety of devices, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Google’s Android system and the BlackBerry PlayBook, although the new app does not work on some versions of the devices,” according to the New York Times.

The FT will urge users of its iPad and iPhone applications to move to the new app. It will not comply with Apple’s proposed conditions, well aware that Apple may remove their existing applications from iTunes. Said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com: “We don’t quite know what will happen. We’d love to keep our app in iTunes, but it may be that they will block our app at the end of the month.”

Mobile customers, the large majority of them iPhone or iPad users, account for 15 percent of The Financial Times’s digital subscriber growth; they have 224,000 paying customers to its website and mobile applications. Along with the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, they are one of the few newspaper entities that charges subscriptions to their digital editions. Their combined paid print and digital circulation figures have now moved above 600,000, up 3% on the last quarter.

(FT’s “About Us” tagline is interestingly worded: “The Financial Times aims to provide FT journalism to readers and subscribers across any format and device they like, including print and digital, mobile and other hand-held devices. Figures reported today show that the FT continues to attract a bigger audience and more paying customers for its content across all of these channels.”)

Of course, Apple does have ease of use on its side. One blog quote that is circulating this morning comes from Benedict Evans, an analyst at Enders Analysis in London. “If you’re depending on impulse download, the tablet experience and the ease of payment to get people to pay for your product where they never paid before, paying Apple 30 percent of something may be better than keeping 100 percent of nothing,.”

Apple hasn’t commented yet on this issue. On Monday they announced a new app called Newsstand, which puts digital newspaper and magazine products into one dedicated place. Wrote The Digital Content Blog of the Guardian: “Publishers were increasingly desperate to be included in the iPad gold rush, but were reluctant to relinquish control of historically crucial subscriber data. Apple refused, and publishers eventually caved in and opted for the compromise – a pop-up that asks consumers if they are willing to share their name, email and address with publishers. About 50%, according to a report by Fortune, are agreeing to this, which is a respectable proportion.”

We’ll have more on Newsstand and these important issues in upcoming SIPAlert Daily articles. So please stay tuned.

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With our accent on the U.K. today,
it’s a good time to remind you of
SIPA’s 17th Annual Conference and Exhibition
in the Tower Hill section of London, July 13-14.

SIPA’s international members offer new—and very successful—ways
of doing things. So BOOK TODAY and take advantage
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A great schedule is in place highlighted by their entertaining awards
presentation hosted by Jonathan Feroze, CEO of Business Monitor International.
Check out the schedule and reserve today!

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