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Apple Backtracks On Subscription Guidelines; Gives Publishers More Freedom On Pricing

Almost three months after Apple announced its controversial subscription service, for publishers of content based apps on its App Store, including magazines, newspapers, video and music, it has now changed its App Store review guidelines (accessible only with a Developers Account), and removed certain clauses that regulated the price of subscriptions for publishers, reports MacRumors. The guidelines were set to come into force starting 30th June. Apple has also made amends to clauses that prevented publishers from offering subscriptions outside the app, unless they also offered them through its In-App purchase mechanism, at a price similar or less. The review guidelines do not discuss the pricing at all, although Apple still prevents developers from posting an external link inside the App to buy subscriptions outside of it.

The move was severely criticized by publishers, since Apple takes a 30% cut from In-App subscriptions. Some like Rhapsody, Real Network’s music subscription service, had refused to accept it, while others like The Wall Street Journal, continued to offer free iPad app access to print subscribers. Recently, The Financial Times released a web based app for the iPad and iPhone, so that it does not have to follow Apple’s App store guidelines, and pay a cut to the company.

What This Means For Publishers

– Publishers can choose to offer lucrative subscription deals outside of the app on their website, or to existing subscribers (who subscribe through other channels). At the same time they can also allow in-app subscriptions for a higher fee, since they have to shell out 30% per subscription, which goes to Apple.

– They can just use external subscriptions and sync content with the App, just like Amazon’s Kindle app. However, they can not link to their own web-stores from the app, since Apple prevents the placement of a ‘Buy’ link.

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– Publishers can also choose to offer content through a web-app. The Financial Times app demonstrates how developers can make a web-app extremely close to a native app, in terms of design and functionality. Also, by offering content through the device’s web browser, it’s not subject to content guidelines issued by Apple. We all know how Playboy managed to offer an uncensored complete version of its print issues through the use of a web app, since Apple would have never approved it.

Related:
Apple Launches Controversial App Store Subscriptions

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