In its latest media-giant move, Apple has launches subscriptions in its App Store. You can now subscribe to magazines, newspapers, video, etc. Subscriptions, whose duration (weekly, monthly, etc.) is set by publishers, will run on the same billing system as apps and in-app purchases. From the press release:
…with one-click, customers pick the length of subscription and are automatically charged based on their chosen length of commitment (weekly, monthly, etc.). Customers can review and manage all of their subscriptions from their personal account page, including canceling the automatic renewal of a subscription. Apple processes all payments, keeping the same 30 percent share that it does today for other In-App Purchases.
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.
Publishers might not be happy about the restrictions in that last sentence, in part because they know that customers will just click the app button instead of making the effort to navigate outside of it. The 30% “Apple tax,” the usual amount, reflects Apple’s confidence that people will want to use the App Store to manage their subscriptions. It also makes me wonder what competitors are going to offer–and whether their “tax” is going to be lower.