Today, Apple finally announced their subscription model. As with other transactions in which Apple is the middle-man, they’re requiring a healthy chunk of the resulting revenue:
“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”
I think that’s emminently reasonable. Apple’s iOS is, after all, a very large and generally self-contained ecosystem that’s already made many, many people rich (I’m looking at you, angry red bird). The potential to sell to these consumers is proven. And Apple isn’t calling this a “transaction fee” or in any other way sugar-coating it. It’s an access fee. The toll for the road. You, as the developer or the content creator or whatever, would not have access to the roughly 160 million iOS devices (and their owners) had Apple not created them.
I’m sure a lot of people will look at these terms and thing they’re onerous, but nobody has to play by them. Publishers could always create web apps to deliver content. But then they’d be bypassing the App Store and all those people who habitually use it to find new things to keep their fingers and eyes occupied. Or, they could focus on Android and their subscription payment option (as soon as it’s developed, anyway).
In the mean time, I look forward to seeing what content creators do with this new lease on life. The New York Times, in particular, seems well positioned to make itself in to a new kind of news delivery service that could dominate marshmallowy players like CNN and Fox.