It appears that Apple has finally decided to start forcing apps to abide by its new in-app purchase and subscription rules that became enforceable at the start of this month. It appears that the first big casualties will be the Wall Street Journal and Kobo apps. The Wall Street Journal has reported that their apps will soon remove all purchasing options from their apps and Kobo, the Canadian e-Book retailer, has already done something similar. Both apps had been linking users to their website to purchase subscription content which had been forbidden in Apple’s new rules, as detailed below.
Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchasing content to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected.
Neither app has or had been rejected, instead Apple seems to have opted to talk directly with Kobo and News Corporation, as both have or will soon be updating their apps to remove the offending links. Curiously both apps will not be using Apple’s own in-app purchasing system to allow users to purchase content or subscriptions. Both firms still feel as though the terms are too onerous, despite Apple relaxing the restrictions in June to allow content to be sold through the in-app purchasing at a different price. Previously the rules were going to require all subscription content to be available for purchase through the in-app system and at the same or lower price (despite Apple’s required 30% cut).
Kobo’s Mr. Serbinis said to the Wall Street Journal that roughly 50% of their iOS app users already bought content through their website, but that this change “will inconvenience those customers accustomed to buying their books directly from our apps on Apple devices”. Similarly, a News Corp spokeswoman said “We remain concerned that Apple’s own subscription [rules] would create a poor experience for our readers, who would not be able to directly manage their WSJ account or to easily access our content across multiple platforms”. Both companies seem reluctant to offer in-app purchases and cede 30% of revenues to Apple, despite even being allowed to charge customers more if purchasing in this method. It follows other publishers such as The New York Times and various Conde Naste magazines, which have embraced Apple’s in-app subscriptions and purchases.
[Via The Wall Street Journal]
A few days ago Apple quietly modified its ‘App Store Review Guidelines’, and it has significantly reduced the requirements that apps, which deliver content, must abide by, effectively stepping down on their previous demands. In February this year it was revealed that Apple had imposed a deadline of June 30 for all publishers of iOS Apps that delivered subscription content to implement In-App Subscriptions. The requirements were that any app that sold content outside the App Store must also offer the same content to users through In-App Purchases and at the “same price or less than it is offered outside the App”.
Yet as MacRumors has published today, Apple has amended the App Store Review Guidelines to state as follows:
11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app
In plain English this means that content providers with an App Store presence are no longer forced to offer In-App purchases or subscriptions for content. But if they do choose to implement IAP or subscriptions they can offer the content at any price they wish – even if it is more than what they charge outside the App Store. The only requirement is that within an app, there cannot be an external link that redirects users to purchase content from outside the app.
It is unknown why Apple has decided to change tack on this issue, but a likely reason is that a number of publishers decided the 30% cut was too much to bear and had put pressure on Apple to redraw the guideline. Just a few days ago The Financial Times released its iPad webapp in order to sidestep the App Store and its overbearing terms. Similarly, earlier this year Time magazine had also ruled out using the subscription service because of the 30% revenue cut and customers ability to opt-out of giving them certain personal details .
Readability, which launched in February, was also set to offer iOS users an app that would tie into the Readability service, but because of the subscription rules they weren’t able to release the app. Similarly iFlowReader complained in mid-May that Apple’s subscription policy had shut them down because the 30% revenue cut would eat into their already small profit margin. The question now is whether these services and magazines will now re-embrace the App Store under these revised terms.
With an update to the Wired app today, it becomes the latest iPad magazine from Conde Nast to utilize Apple’s in-app subscription service after they began implementing it in all their magazine apps earlier this month. Wired now offers users four ways to consume the Wired magazine on the iPad, they can continue to purchase individual issues for $3.99, pay $1.99 for a monthly subscription, $19.99 for a yearly subscription or if they are already a print subscriber, access the app for free.
The subscription offerings will allow users to access the monthly editions until the subscription runs out. Opting to purchase individual issues will mean users get to permanently purchase that issue and re-read it at a later time without a subscription.
Today’s update follows last month’s update that brought enhanced sharing and shopping features to the app, and to celebrate they made the issue available for free. According to Howard Mittman on Twitter, that proved successful because the issue has become the most downloaded, beating the record set by the first iPad edition of Wired, which had over 100,000 downloads.