Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Apple's Subscription Service Works Just Fine–Unless You're a Publisher Hoping It Won't

Publishers aren’t happy about the terms of Apple’s new iTunes subscription system , but I have a hunch we’re going to see more of them biting the bullet and using it anyway. Just like the New York Times says it will do later this summer.

One argument I’ve heard from media companies that are considering using the plan: Just because consumers can buy subscriptions from iTunes doesn’t mean they will.

They can also buy the subscriptions for iPad/iPhone app content from the media companies’ own sites, and when that happens the publishers will keep all the revenue and all the subscriber data. (When Apple sells a subscription, it collects a 30 percent fee every month, and limits the subscriber info the publishers can see.)

So the media guys are hoping that they’ll sell most of their subscriptions themselves, and that Apple’s sales channel will be relatively small.

Good luck!

I just went through the subscription signup for The Daily, the tablet newspaper from News Corp., which also owns this Web site. The Daily has had a rocky launch, but handing them $0.99 a week using Apple’s new service was silky smooth.

It wasn’t technically a one-click purchase–there was also a confirmation button, and an opt-in screen where I agreed to hand over my e-mail account and zip code to the publisher. But then I was done.

No need to give Apple my credit card info. They’ve already got it, along with 200 million other iTunes users’ data.

Then I got this confirmation e-mail from Apple. Note how it’s written in plain English, and spells out exactly what I’ve gotten myself into, and how I can get out of it. (Click on image to enlarge).

That’s as frictionless, and transparent, as e-commerce can get.

And while I understand, as a media reporter, why the publishers want me to buy through them, as a consumer, I don’t care. The only way to stop me from taking the path of least resistance would be to shut it off altogether. And walking away from 200 million customers is going to take an awful lot of willpower.

[Postscript from 3/27: Just unsubcribed from The Daily. That was easy, too: Did it within iTunes, in just a couple clicks.]


Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik