Over the past week, Apple announced its subscriptions plan for the App Store, following the model of "The Daily". Under the plan, publishers set the price and length of the subscription, users choose the length of the subscription and are charged based on how long they subscribe. Apple keeps 30% of the revenue. Google also announced a subscription-based service for publishers called OnePass. More on that here.
Pam Horan, President of the Online Publishers Association (OPA), shared some thoughts with us on both Apple’s and Google’s new subscription services. If you’re unfamiliar with the OPA, it’s a non-profit trade group representing content providers like ABCNews.com, About.com, BBC.com, Bloomberg.com, CBS Interactive, CNBC, CNN.com, Comcast Interactive Media, Condé Nast, ConsumerReports.org, Disney Interactive Media, ESPN.com, Forbes.com, FoxNews.com, Gannett Digital, Gawker Media, Harvard Business Publishing, The Huffington Post, Hearst Coproration, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, and many more.
Regarding Apple’s, Horan says, "Right now, one the most audible reactions I’m hearing from publishers is: what does this mean for the consumer? The concern is that Apple’s latest subscription policy limits one of the major needs that all publishers look to address – seamlessly offering their content on whatever platform the consumer wants to access it on."
"Based on Apple’s policy, specifically, 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," she continues. "Limiting the publisher to include links with offers or offering direct bundles through their own website, makes authenticating the consumer impossible. Apple’s one click access is great, but consumers have to realize that they are sacrificing portability."
"The second issue is that Apple’s doesn’t allow publishers access to any consumer information – from who is purchasing to what articles and tools that [they] are finding valuable based on their use," she adds. "Consumer insights are paramount for publishers to be able to offer consumers the products they want. We would hope that Apple would take these issues into consideration to ensure that we are all serving their consumers’ best interest."
On Google’s new service, Horan says, "At first pass, the Google OnePass model may address several of the concerns that publishers have with the Apple subscription model unveiled earlier this week. Google is sharing the customer’s name, ZIP code and e-mail address (unless the customer opts out) which will help publishers gain the valuable consumer insight that is necessary to help them evolve their products."
"Another difference between this and the Apple offering is the pricing structure – it appears more flexible as does the ability to purchase bundling solutions," she adds. "With OnePass, publishers can try different models, like subscriptions, so-called metered access and selling single articles. The service also lets publishers give free access to existing subscribers."
Horan is not alone in her analysis. Google’s model seems to be getting a lot better feedback than Apple’s, though Apple’s model certainly has its supporters. Apple’s model has actually been tied to antitrust concerns, though nothing has been made of such concerns on the parts of either Apple or the Justice Department.