Subscriber information seen as obstacle to getting Newspapers on the iPad

Tue, Feb 16, 2010


Everyone’s been talking about the iPad as an e-book reader, but noticeably absent from the conversation is all of the hype we once heard about the iPad saving print media by revolutionizing the way we access and view newspapers and magazines. This is largely due to the fact that Apple is still trying to hammer out deals with a number of publishers, but varying ways of doing business are slowing down the process.

The Financial Times reports that one of the key sticking points for publishers is Apple’s reluctance to share with them subscriber information. Keeping personal information under wraps in the digital age seems like a no-brainer, but remember that Newspapers have long used specific personal data to adjust their advertising campaigns accordingly.

Apple’s practice of sharing with its partners little consumer data beyond sales volume is a problem. “Is it a dealbreaker? It’s pretty damn close,” said one senior media executive of a US metropolitan daily newspaper.

Publishers have spent decades collecting information about subscribers that influence marketing plans and, in some cases, the content of the publication itself. Apple’s policy would separate them from their most valuable asset, publishing executives said. “We must keep the relationship with our readers,” says Sara Öhrvall, senior vice-president of research at Swedish publisher Bonnier . “That’s the only way to make a good magazine.”

When demographic information is an integral factor in deciding what a publication advertises, and even what they choose to publish, it’s understandably difficult for newspapers and magazines to blindly jump into an iPad deal with Apple when, from their perspective, they have one hand tied behind their backs.

Also problematic is Apple’s stance on revenue sharing. While a 30/70 split works great for developers and book publishers, it doesn’t necessarily translate over to the subscription based business model that operates in the Newspaper and Magazine industries. “The concept of giving away close to a third of subscription sales over an indefinite period was hard to accept,” said one executive familiar with the negotiations.

Hopefully this will all get sorted out by the time the iPad begins shipping at the end of March.


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