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Building Mobile Newsstands and Subscription Models

As Apple prepares a newsstand, third-party options give publishers more control.



By Matt Kinsman
09/29/2010

Good news for the magazine industry: Apple is developing a digital newsstand that would allow publishers to sell magazines across the iPad and possibly other Apple devices. The focus will be on subscriptions rather than single copies. A storefront could be available within the next few months, and reports say Apple is also developing software to create digital editions as well as rich media such as high definition video.

The bad news: negotiations with Apple are anything but certain, and Apple’s insistence on controlling customer data could be a major stumbling block.

Meanwhile, other publishers are turning to third-party newsstand and subscriptions services that work with the iPad now and can be adapted for other emerging devices down the road. The Atlantic sells single iPad issues for $4.99, but is also launching Atlantic Premium, a daily bundle of all its online content for a monthly fee. Atlantic Premium leverages Urban Airship, which offers a storefront for “in-app” purchases and gives the developers the ability to deliver content from directly within an application without sending the user back to the App store.

Newsweek has tapped Urban Airship to make in-app purchases and in-app content downloads available with each issue. Currently, Newsweek is offering a one-time fee, yet hopes to be adding a subscription pricing model soon, where Urban Airship will be managing subscription start and stop dates for each user as well as “the business rules behind access to magazine issues and content delivery,” according Hila Dar, product director of Newsweek Digital.

With storefronts delivering content of less than 25MB, Urban Airship charges $0.05 per download. For downloads between 25MB and 150MB, the price increases to $0.10 per download.

“We may explore using this model for other app features,” says Dar. “We’re really looking forward to implementing the subscription models. Hopefully, we can pursue an auto-renew feature in the future. Currently, users will have to manually renew, due to Apple limitations, and tying in push notifications would be a great usage driver as well.”

By Matt Kinsman
09/29/2010




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