Reuters reports on the Financial Times’ web app’s performances, noting that the HTML5-optimized version of FT.com has now 700,000 users, proving it to be “more popular” than the newspaper’s iOS app. Financial Times made headlines when it couldn’t agree with Apple on iTunes’ subscription rules for publishers — which require companies to give a 30% revenue cut to Apple, and make sharing of subscriber data opt-in. It was previously reported that 50% of iTunes subscribers opted to share their personal information; however, the Financial Times wanted more control over its mobile application, and decided to develop an HTML5 version instead. The iOS app was then pulled from the App Store.
People who are using the app are spending much more time with the content,” he said. “They are consuming about three times as many pages through the app as they are through the desktop in an average visit.”
The FT’s Web-based mobile app accounts for 15 percent of FT.com subscriptions and 20 percent of total FT.com page views from mobile users, Grimshaw said.
After launching the new web app on June 7, the Financial Times reported after three weeks they achieved 200,000 downloads, with 100,000 in the first week alone. In spite of its web app nature, the iOS-optimized FT app recommends users to “add it to their home screens”, requesting access to increased database size for local cache.
Apple has been doing a number of things to address the issues with subscriptions and delivery of content on iOS devices. They first launched iTunes app subscriptions in February, making it easier for users to subscribe to newspapers and magazine with their existing iTunes accounts. Then at WWDC the company announced Newsstand, a new unified virtual shelf on iOS devices for content a user is subscribed to. Adobe has already announced its publishing tools will be updated to take advantage of iOS 5′s Newsstand. The Financial Times is not the only publisher to find an alternative route out of Apple’s App Store, as Amazon released a web-based version of its Kindle reader with direct integration with the Kindle Store.
Both the Financial Times and Amazon couldn’t comply with Apple’s subscription rules, even after Apple slightly modified them to open up to more publishers in June.
Over the past six months there has been a (fairly) quiet tussle between Apple and various publishers and other content suppliers over the issue of In-App Purchases and Subscriptions. At the beginning of the year Apple had demanded that by July, all content available within an app must be available for purchase within the app through In-App Purchasing, for the same price as it was available on the publishers website (say the Kindle online store) and that the app did not link to the website for purchases but used the In-App Purchase system. Apple reversed their policy in May, removing the first two restrictions — but still denied publishers from including a ‘Buy’ link that went to a website and then finally late last month various publishers began to abide by these rules, including the Wall Street Journal, Kobo and the Kindle apps.
This obviously isn’t the best situation for consumers and as many have noted, including Dan Frommer of SplatF, it has made purchasing Kindle books more difficult for the user – despite the premise of In-App Purchases aiming to simplify purchases. Consequently, Amazon today released the Kindle Cloud Reader, a web app for Chrome, Safari and the iPad – with support for other browsers and devices promised soon.
The desktop version of the Kindle Cloud Reader is nice, but it is the iPad version that is most intriguing and impressive. It is a web app but it does an excellent job at masquerading as a native app — particularly features such as offline support and menus that hide/reappear when you tap the screen. It starts from when you first load the Kindle Cloud Reader and it asks permission to reserve 50 MB on your device so that it can store all the necessary elements of the ‘app’ and your books to ensure that when you have no 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity, everything continues to work. To really see how well it does at pretending to be a native app, try it yourself or jump the break for more screenshot’s of the Kindle Cloud Reader — pinning it to the Home Screen as a web app (which it dutifully suggests you do) in particular just amplifies the native app feel by removing the browser chrome.
What Amazon has done by creating this web app reminds me of the Financial Times, which also created a web app for delivering their content to users and subscribers after they also felt Apple’s terms were too restrictive and negative. Unlike the Financial Times, Amazon has not removed their iOS app from the App Store — it remains, albeit hampered by the lack of easy access to the Kindle Store. On the Kindle Cloud Reader however, the Kindle Store works great with a link in the top-right corner and it is made better by the fact that the store has also received an iPad-enhanced design and works much better whilst also looking great.
You can access the Kindle Cloud Reader now, simply by logging in to your Amazon account – all your purchased books will already be there.
Two weeks after The Financial Times launched their new web app, they are apparently close to racking up a rather impressive 200,000 downloads. The Financial Times had launched the web app as a result of imposing conditions that Apple was asking for with its In-App subscription service, in particular was the lack of data that The Financial Times could attain from user activity.
The statistic comes from Media Week which says Financial Times is about to hit 200,000 downloads of the web app after getting 100,000 downloads in its first week. Given the apparent success of the app (although it remains to be seen how many people will subscribe) it could see other news publications move to the web app model instead of developing a native app. Publishers that develop a native app and charge a subscription fee must give up 30% of revenues to Apple – something all publishers have been somewhat hesitant of doing.
In spite of earlier reports claiming that the Financial Times was still negotiating with Apple over the implementation of app subscriptions for newspapers, the publication has announced today the availability of a new HTML5 web app built to fully take advantage of the iPhone and iPad unique capabilities. As Apple has started requiring developers and publishers to use subscriptions in their apps with recurring payments, asking to give away a 30% cut off every transaction, the Financial Times stated multiple times in the past a deal couldn’t be negotiated with Apple unless the company changed its terms. The Financial Times said the app “could go somewhere else” hinting at a native application for Android devices, though in today’s press release the FT clearly states the browser-based app was developed with iOS Safari in mind, with optimized versions for other Android devices and BlackBerry PlayBook coming in the next months. FT has even posted a lengthy FAQ on the difference between native apps and HTML5 here.
As for the app itself, it’s pretty slick and can be accessed for free during launch week, but a subscription will be required to read more than 10 articles a month once the promo is over. For as much as the web app comes with its perks like automatic updates and browser access, when using it on my iPhone 4 I noticed performances were far from “fast”, even after increasing the database size like the app suggested. Text takes a while to render sharply on the iPhone’s screen, images are slow to download and scrolling isn’t of course as smooth as a native app. I’m sure some of these problems are related to the fact that the web app just went live and perhaps the FT needs to re-optimize everything, but I wonder if the average reader will notice the aforementioned issues when comparing the web-based FT with any app from Apple’s iOS 5 Newsstand. However, I’m impressed by the design of the app on the iPad, the menus and buttons implemented by the developers, and the rich content made of photos and videos available through a web browser. Performance problems aside, the FT surely has dropped a well-design app that doesn’t require Apple’s approval.
This is our best app yet, and it is an important step in our strategy of providing multi-channel access to our global journalism quickly and simply,” said John Ridding, CEO of the Financial Times. “The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism.
Other features include:
Reading offline – saving a shortcut to your home screen so you can read it offline, at any time, just like one of our existing apps
Web browser access – no download needed
All access – one registration or subscription will offer customers access to FT content through a range of devices or on a PC
Speed – the new app offers improved performance
Automatic updates – instant product improvements with no need to download new versions of the app
Specific to smartphones – a completely new and improved design, inclusion of images and FT video content, a new currency converter
Specific to tablets – new content from FT Blogs
The new Financial Times web app is available here. Check out the official promo video below.
With a month to go until publishers must either fall in with Apple’s new in-app purchasing terms or quit iOS in June, The Financial Times is not yet amongst the small early group to have consented to the new rules.
“We’re still in discussions with them,” FT producer management head Mary Beth Christie told paidContent:UK at World E-reading Congress in London on Tuesday morning. “We’ll see where they go. But we are fixed on the idea of holding on to our consumer data.
Like Time Inc., it appears that the Financial Times can’t agree on Apple’s subscription terms unveiled last February, which require publishers to give a 30% cut off every transaction to Apple and allow users to choose whether or not they want to share their personal information with a publisher. In the past months, in fact, the Financial Times stated multiple times that the iPad app could go somewhere else, perhaps on other platforms and tablets, as they couldn’t give up on subscribers’ data to stay in the App Store. Indeed, after a five-month trial period, Apple will begin pulling publishing apps that haven’t implemented subscriptions on June 30.
Apple managed to ink deals with several magazines, newspapers and publishers over the past two weeks, such as Hearst and Conde Nast, which began selling a subscription-based version of The New Yorker yesterday.
Currently, the Financial Times sells subscriptions to the print and digital editions of the paper on their website — a method that allows the publisher to collect subscribers’ data to promote various products and advertisements to the audience. This kind of “relationship” can’t be easily achieved with Apple’s new terms, which are optional for the user in order to protect privacy. The Financial Times says they “have a great relationship with Apple”, too, but if the business model doesn’t work out they are ready to pull the app from the App Store and release it somewhere else. Perhaps as a web app, perhaps on Android.
We don’t want to lose our direct relationship with our subscribers. It’s at the core of our business model,” Rob Grimshaw told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
He said he was hopeful of a positive outcome to negotiations with Apple, but added: “If it turns out that one or another channel doesn’t mix with the way we want to do business, there’s a large number of other channels available to us.
The Financial Times isn’t providing additional details on where the iPad app will end up if subscriptions aren’t implemented by June, but many are speculating Pearson (owner of the FT) will focus on Android and “other tablets”. The situation is interesting as the FT iPad app is generating 20% of the publication’s subscribers and millions in revenue — but they don’t want to comply to Apple’s terms as, in their own words, they “have something to lose”.
The executives over at the Financial Times don’t like Apple’s new terms for app subscriptions. Even with an iPad app that’s generating 20% of the publication’s subscribers and millions in revenue, Financial Times owner Pearson expressed his concerns about Apple’s policy in a way that suggest the Financial Times may soon launch its app on other tablets and abandon the iPad, the Guardian reports.
It is unclear how their proposal is going to work, we are still talking to them,” said Scardino. “The important thing to remember is there are many, many tablets coming out and multiple devices … [from] Kindle to mobiles. If indeed Apple are not happy to give us customer data then maybe we will get it somewhere else.
Chief executive Scardino argues that as competition to Apple’s iPad increases over time, there will be no need for publishers to only consider the App Store ecosystem. Admittedly, Apple’s new terms with a 30% fee on every transaction and the impossibility to just link an external web store inside an app are turning out to be quite problematic for newspapers and magazines. Only a few of them have implemented the new subscription technology (which handles everything, from recurring payments to customers’ data, through iTunes), and with a deadline set by June it will be interesting to see which ones will stay on board, and those who will prefer Android tablets instead. For those looking for a reminder of Apple’s new rules:
Publishers who use Apple’s subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.
Antitrust enforces have been rumored to be “looking at” Apple’s new subscriptions for apps as well.
20% Of Financial Times Subscriptions Come From iPad App
The official Financial Times app for iPad keeps generating interesting numbers: downloads have reached 600,000 copies up from 430,000 in November, and the app is driving 20% of Financial Times’ subscriptions.
Ridding, who was speaking at an investor conference in New York on Thursday, said the FT’s iPad app had been downloaded 600,000 times, up from 430,000 downloads at the end of November.
Pearson PLC’s FT allows people to read a set number of articles on its website each month before asking for a fee. Newspaper and magazine publishers are turning to the iPad and other tablet devices to help revive their business, which have been beset by declining advertising revenue and readership.