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This is why Apple’s subscription system fails for consumers

From Apple Subs: Publishers Seek Clarity, FT Concerned, Some Sign Up | paidContent:

“We have a fair and open approach for customers whereby we offer digital access to FT journalism for one price and enable access across multiple platforms for no additional fee. It is necessary to have a direct relationship with the customer to enable this to happen. The iPad and iPhone are two of those channels, but it is a market that is developing quickly and new devices are coming to the market at an increasing rate.”

The same is true of The Economist. I pay them a simple fee, for which I get the print magazine, access to the web site and its huge archives, the audio version of the magazine as a podcast, and the magazine on iPad.

Because they don’t get access to information about who is buying via Apple’s in-app purchasing, they simply can’t offer the same deal through Apple’s system – which, in theory, means they can’t offer The Economist via iPad.

So what they will probably end up doing is offering a separate iPad-only subscription, which I won’t get as part of my package. And that’s a victory for customers how?

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  • Anonymous

    “Because they don’t get access to information about who is buying via Apple’s in-app purchasing, they simply can’t offer the same deal through Apple’s system – which, in theory, means they can’t offer The Economist via iPad.”

    Ian – are you sure that this is true? From the press release:

    “Protecting customer privacy is a key feature of all App Store transactions. Customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address and zip code when they subscribe. The use of such information will be governed by the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s. Publishers may seek additional information from App Store customers provided those customers are given a clear choice, and are informed that any additional information will be handled under the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s.”

    There were some articles yesterday saying that the publishers thought they had actually dodged the bullet on this one as Apple have come up with a solution for delivering this very information if the customer allows it.

  • http://twitter.com/_ChrisHarris Chris Harris

    They could offer the iPad only subscription at a reduced rate. This would make up for the digital only component. That is why you are allowed to offer the subscription price for *less* through In-App purchases.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    The problem would be implementing that. Imagine: You buy a “subscription package” from in-app. It then asks you for you Name, address, etc – and because people sometimes don’t think, you hit “No” when it asks for permission. What next? You’ve just paid for something you’ll never get. The magazine can’t contact you to check if you’re sure. Neither can Apple. Nightmare!

  • http://andybold.me.uk Andy Bold

    “Because they don’t get access to information about who is buying via Apple’s in-app purchasing”

    That says to me that the information that they have access to for subscribers is worth a lot more than a charge levied by Apple for providing use of their payment processing & infrastructure.

    You’re other point is “I want access to two copies of the same thing for one price.” That doesn’t strike me as realistic. It’s like wanting to pay once for two copies of The Economist at WH Smith “because they both have the same content.”

    So, yes, on balance it’s a win for consumers.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    It’s all in the wording, and interpretation. Apple refers to having to offer the same deal for “a digital subscription offer”. Not simply an “iPad app subscription”, but a “digital” subscription. So, for example, if you offer a bundle of iPad and Web access, isn’t that “a digital subscription offer” – and one that you have to offer the same deal for?

    The key thing is that no one knows for sure – and until Apple starts to be more up front and clarify things, we won’t find out.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    “You’re other point is “I want access to two copies of the same thing for one price.” That doesn’t strike me as realistic. It’s like wanting to pay once for two copies of The Economist at WH Smith “because they both have the same content.””

    Well, that’s exactly what I get with The Economist, and The Times (online and iPad). Giving customers access to what they want, in the format that’s most convenient for them should be a cornerstone of the publishing.

  • Anonymous

    I think that is addressed in the developer notes about subscription services which can’t be republished here unfortunately. Certainly you can hit no and still subscribe – it’s just that the publisher can’t leach your personal information for their own gain.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7PSYIBYSL3IERNYK7I5R5KXBHI Ryan

    Oh, please. You want to see a mess? Look at Google’s Android-

    Vaporware, Forked OS’es, Apps that steal your data and send it to China or Russia, apps that don’t work, cheapos that wont pay for apps and did I mention announcements about products that only exist on crappy home made videos- like One Pass.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5A7AMOG6PO5O4TRQBFB3GWGXR4 Mohan

    Nothing preventing them from gathering information on their users in their issues is there? They can ask them for whatever information they need to insure that they receive the product across platforms.

    However I am very happy that Apple does not share information with these marketers. I prefer not to share, rather than to opt out.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Whethere someone else is doing something better or worse doesn’t affec the quality of what Apple is doing, just as pointing at someone robbing someone at gunpoint doesn’t mean I can go out and shoplift.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    They can ask, but it’s poor user experience. Suppose someone signs up for a combined print/web/iPad sub using IAP. They are then asked if they want to share their address with the publisher… and (accidentally or otherwise) click “no”. They publisher can’t contact them to sort it out – they don’t have the customer’s details. Apple won’t sort it out, because to share the info would be to go against the customer’s preference. And the customer ends up wondering why the print magazine never arrives, and probably blames the publisher rather than Apple’s crazy system.

  • Anonymous

    uhh, Apple has had “in app” purchase for a very long time, and the customer seems to have thrived…

    you’d have to be a moron to think “in app subscription” would be any different… the only people complaining are the ones trying to sell subscriptions of subscriptions. which would be moronic, and best left to the web.

    music subscriptions is a dead business with few patrons, and those few are losing their number constantly…

    no one cares about music “subscriptions” and if they wanted one they would make one work on the web. what has stopped them for the last 10 years?

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    “uhh, Apple has had “in app” purchase for a very long time, and the customer seems to have thrived…”

    Wow, really? I didn’t know that! Thanks for telling me! I mean, I haven’t been using iOS since the first iPhone. Thank GOD you’re around to tell me this!

    By the way, don’t bother posting a response unless you’re prepared to put your real name to it. If you want to troll, I’d like the world to see who you are, and that you’re being an asshole. Thanks for playing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OCIHY3FBP34HHS7RKREOV2LSS4 douglas Semark

    Well, it’s good that the poor news organizations and publishing houses have simple folk to provide them with cover in the rough-and-tumble world of business. How did they ever survive the unfair practices of the past? At least they won’t be victimized any more by evil, greedy corrupters like Apple as long as fair-minded folks are willing to stand up and protect them. This is especially good as publishers have a long-standing tradition of respect for customers AND content that must be protected at all costs.

    Ian, you need to rethink this. Publishers have been screwing and manipulating and selling us for years, and you want to take it out on Apple? There isn’t a publication out there that can’t think its way around this. Most probably already have a plan but are waiting to see if fair-minded people will take the bait and do their pleading for them. Then they can “beat” Apple and screw you twice. Nice.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    “Publishers have been screwing and manipulating and selling us for years, and you want to take it out on Apple?”

    In what way? By providing you with subscriptions to magazines at ridiculously low rates, in return for using the data to hone their advertising?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/IWQ7HIPZ4UJ5YWJB7JSYZ7QXKM watchdog

    In the print world, peole opted out of giving info about themselves to the publisher by purchasing single copies using cash on the newsstand. But if a customer was willing to have their eyeballs sold, they could get a discount and greater convenience (delivery to your mailbox) with a subscription.

    In the digital world (before Apple), every behind-the-paywall purchase on the web involves giving up your information (name, credit card, possibly more) to the publisher. It applies to single articles, copies and subscriptions.

    Apple now says it will make a digital purchase easier (one-click) and anonymous to the publisher. That’s a big win for the customer. Plus, if the publisher really wants that info, they can explicitly ask for it, and possibly be forced to offer something (gift?) to get it like they did before in the days of print. That’s an even better win for the customer; back to par with the print world.

    Stop being fooled. Customers were forced to give up their info when print moved to the paywall web. Apple is making that known and returning the anonymity option back to the customer.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/IWQ7HIPZ4UJ5YWJB7JSYZ7QXKM watchdog

    Dont’t understand how your scenario occurs. If you say no, the info is not passed to the publisher. But if you’ve “paid” in th app, Apple records the transaction and knows who you are, and what you bought. So why wouldn’t you be able to contact Apple about the purchase?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/IWQ7HIPZ4UJ5YWJB7JSYZ7QXKM watchdog

    I think Mohan meant they can ask for info separate from the transaction. Just like they can do so in the print world.

    As for your scenario, it’s been happening with millions of in-app purchases in apps today; i.e., content being delivered to users whose info (esp credit card) is unknown to the app maker. Haven’t heard of it being a problem. I don’t know the nitty-gritty mechanics, but either Apple is handling the distribution to each in-app purchaser or the in-app content provider knows your iTunes account name. By the way, it’s the address and credit card number, not your name, that are the most valuable for advertising sales to the publisher. Lots of info can be mined from that data.

    Why is “asking” (outside of the transaction) a poor user experience? They can offer the customer something in exchange, just like they did before in the print world, and still sometimes do in the web world.

  • Anonymous

    You lost me here – now you are referring to Apple’s quality or you are referring to its poor quality so what are you talking about here.

    I wonder what are you inferring here – Ryan is referring to the mess that is android and you are referring to robbery perhaps you should use a better analogy – as I read what you are referring that Apple is robbing their customers through their subscription service by not passing their details to the publishers.

    Btw it is up to the publishers to do what they should to benefit their customers such as buying an app they also have the right to the on line edition and archive.