A Little Devil's Advocacy on iPad Subs

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The whole discussion about the charging structure for subscriptions that Apple announced earlier in the week has left me rather bamboozled. It feels like rather a lot of people have missed something rather important about this iPad thingamajig.

You see, there’s a super-secret way to get all your content onto an iPad without Apple charging you a dime for it. If you look really carefully at your iPad, in amongst all those clumsy, slow, print-replicating magazine apps you’ve downloaded is a blue-ish icon which looks a little like a compass:


Found it? Cool. Now click on it. Yes, it’s called the web. You can access the web on your iPad. Blimey! Who’d have thought it?

You could put your content up on something called a web site, for free, or with a paywall, and have your customers access it that way. On their iPads. And Apple doesn’t charge.


Sarcasm aside, I think the rather bizarre belief in some quarters that the iPad will magically recreate our content packages of old and restore the traditional business model of publishing (debunked here) is at the root of the outrage shown in some quarters over Apple’s charging structure. People have obsessed over apps to such a degree they’ve forgotten they’re just one route from your servers to a customer’s eyeballs.

Apple is offering a shopfront, a payment processor and (for the app itself) hosting facilities. For that, they’re charging you 30% (and then only for customers that come to you through Apple. For customers you acquire yourself? Still free.) As Shane Richmond has pointed out, that’s pretty damn close to what publishers pay newsagents. And there aren’t many publications which ONLY sell to newsagents. If you want on the iPad app system, those are the terms of business. And some publishers are doing so. If you’re not prepared to pay the cost of accessing the platform, then build a pretty damn compelling web offer instead.

If you don’t think you can do that, and you don’t think you can find a business model that accommodates Apple’s terms on payment and user data, well, you have worse problems than this 30% charge, frankly.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.