Apple has changed its rules for in-app subscriptions and content access in the App Store. Reports are indicating that the most significant change is access to content purchased outside of the app without a corresponding in-app subscription requirement, and a concomitant relaxation of pricing requirements.
In February, Apple released its app subscription service, which debuted with the launch of News Corp.’s The Daily. The subscription service rules were set to take effect at the end of this month. Until now, Apple required publishers that wanted to offer subscription deals outside of the app to include the same or better offer inside the app. Also, publishers couldn’t provide direct links inside the app to purchase content outside the app.
Here’s what Apple CEO Steve Jobs said when the company announced is subscription plan in February: “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."
The new rules, as initially reported by Mac Rumors’ Jordan Golson, now let apps link to purchased or subscription content outside of the app without also requiring a similar or better deal in the App Store.
The only catch here is there can’t be a button or link that allows the customer to purchase that content outside of the app.
As Mac Rumors notes, the removal of the rule necessitating the corresponding subscription deal at the same or better price now allows publishers to raise their pricing to pad Apple’s 30 percent cut, which, of course, still remains intact. It also appears that the other sticking point for publishers, detailed subscriber data, has not been changed either.
All Things D’s Peter Kafka raises another point—that the new rules could pose significant problems for apps such as Amazon’s Kindle app, which has a button that delivers customers right into the Kindle store.
Up to this point, big publishers have been split on their acceptance of the rules in general. Conde Nast and Hearst just started selling subs via iTunes and the Financial Times decided to forego an iOS app, instead launching an HTML5 Web app, freeing it from any of Apple’s App Store requirements.
While the rule adjustment does allow for greater outbound content and pricing flexibility, it’s not a wholesale change to the model. Publishers that want to play within the walls of the App Store still have to swallow the 30 percent cut, limited subscriber information and the inability to direct customers to Web-based content offers.