Apple Antitrust Issues Raised by Subscription-Service Terms

"Apple Inc.'s new subscription service could draw antitrust scrutiny, according to law professors. ... Publishers, for example, might claim that Apple dominates the market for consumer tablet computers and that it has allegedly used that commanding position to restrict competition. Apple, in turn, might define the market to include all digital and print media, and counter that any publisher not happy with Apple's terms is free to still reach its customers through many other print and digital outlets."

Newsonomics: Apple’s “New” Policy: Looking Beyond Digital Circ Dollars to Ads & Data

Ken Doctor: "there’s little surprising in the Apple announcement. After all, what it said publicly is what it has said privately to news and magazine companies for months. Your old business is still your business, but the new business — when we help you get it — is our business, too. For Apple, that’s a logical position, and the logic is backed up by a big number: 160 million. That’s the approximate number of iTunes account holders, a number 40 times bigger than the largest newspapers in the U.S. and Europe. You want access to our customers, Apple says, pay us."

GigaOm: Apple Gives Media Companies a Carrot, Tied to a Big Stick

Mathew Ingram: "[Apple's new iOS subscriptions policy] leaves publishers to ask themselves: How much is it worth to let Apple handle your sales for you? ... Market dominance is a powerful thing, however, and so far, Apple has the customers that publishers want to reach. For better or worse, they’ll have to submit to the stick if they want access to that carrot."

paidContent:UK: On Rupert’s iPad: Times, Sky TV Show Different Charging Approaches

"[A]nyone who is paying to access the [Times] website must also pay the extra tenner a month for the same content on iPad, and vice versa. Now, this may well be a result of an inability to link Apple’s iTunes Store billing systems with News Corp.‘s own. But the Financial Times, which uses its own payment technology rather than Apple’s, has a platform-agnostic, pay-once strategy across its outlets." Media Decoder: A Peek at Vanity Fair’s iPad App

"There are still unresolved questions about the iPad for publishers. Vanity Fair knows the name and address of everyone who subscribes to its magazines, but it cannot get that data from Apple about iTunes buyers. That’s one reason the magazine industry is working on its own digital newsstand, so it can control the consumer relationship." Media Decoder: A Peek at Vanity Fair’s iPad App

"There are still unresolved questions about the iPad for publishers. Vanity Fair knows the name and address of everyone who subscribes to its magazines, but it cannot get that data from Apple about iTunes buyers. That’s one reason the magazine industry is working on its own digital newsstand, so it can control the consumer relationship."

Mediactive: Why Journalism Organizations Should Reconsider Their Crush on Apple’s iPad

Dan Gillmor: "Ultimately, I believe, the most important issue is whether news organizations should get in bed with a company that makes unilateral and non-transparent decisions like the ones Apple has been making about content in all kinds of ways. I say they should think hard about it, and answer either in the negative or insist on iron-clad contracts with Apple that prohibit the hardware company from any kind of interference with the journalism, ever."

Guardian PDA blog: What Apple can do for journalism

Mercedes Bunz suggests that establishig iTunes as a payment mechanism for micropayments could be the most significant aspect of an Apple tablet for publishers: "Payment has to be simple and elegant. Click and run, and don't think about it. Apple can offer that: there are more than 100 million iTunes accounts with credit cards already. If the transactions are batched so that the fixed cost is amortised across multiple articles, iTunes can offer readers a simple and elegant way to pay, and readers like that."

Paul Graham: Post-Medium Publishing

"There have always been people in the business of selling information, but that has historically been a distinct business from publishing. And the business of selling information to consumers has always been a marginal one. ... People will pay for information they think they can make money from. That's why they paid for those stock tip newsletters, and why companies pay now for Bloomberg terminals and Economist Intelligence Unit reports. But will people pay for information otherwise? History offers little encouragement."

Los Angeles Times: iTunes proves newspapers can and should charge for online access

Our next contestant is David Lazarus: "[N]ewspapers need to band together for a joint online subscription service. Digital readers would pay a monthly fee -- let's say $10 -- and in return they'd have full access to the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times and any other paper that wants to be part of the consortium (the more the merrier)."

Kindle and iPhone: Competing models for the future of mobile news

The iPhone and Kindle have made the long-mythical portable electronic newspaper device a reality for a significant number of mainstream consumers.

Many news organisations have created applications to ease access to their content on the iPhone — Variety’s app launch was an interesting addition this week.

Kindle is also becoming a news platform. PaidContent:UK this week reported that the Daily Mail is keen to join the 31 newspapers and magazines available on the Kindle — for subscribers.

And there’s the rub: although both devices are primarily designed to sell premium access to various other media, they represent two contrasting visions for the future of mobile news.

Jeff Jarvis neatly summarises it in a post about his experiences with the Amazon Kindle:

The iPhone and Kindle are a study in contrasts. The biggest is, of course, the business model: One may buy books on either, but current content on the iPhone will, in most cases, be ad-supported; on the Kindle, it is paid for by the reader.

The same thing is true for mobile news.

The Kindle, as newspaper publishers are currently using it, represents a vision of mobile e-readers founded on subscription-based access to publisher-determined bundles of content. Paying subscribers receive packages of content, the unbundling effect digital media has had on newspapers and magazines is completely undone.

The way it is currently being used, Kindle represents moving print-style newspaper portability to electronic delivery. It’s digital media as printies wish it to be. It’s digital media mimicking the form and business model of print media — something that may work temporarily, but is probably just a transitional approach.

The iPhone, by contrast, represents a very different vision: making web-based news mobile. Like Amazon, Apple controls access to its platform for certain media through iTunes and the App Store.

Nevertheless, the iPhone represents openness and an application-neutral platform for accessing the Internet.

This is a consequence of the presence of one particular iPhone app: Safari. The web browser on the iPhone means that — contrary to those who fantisise about an “iTunes for news” — the iPhone represents a news distribution model that is free-to-air and ad-supported — an extension of the existing web to portable devices, rather than a new electronic version of the print product.

The Kindle 2 also has a basic web browser, but it remains is primarily designed as a platform for selling premium off-browser media.

Jack Shafer of Slate noted described it this way:

By thinking outside the browser, Apple answers to nobody but itself when it wants to add features, such as movies and TV show sales and rentals—or when subtracting them. If the browser window is the commons, the iTunes application is Apple’s castle, where you’re expected to do as you’re told.

Another outside-the-browser experiment, nowhere near as successful as the iTunes app, is the New York Times’ Times Reader, which delivers a very readable version of the paper. I found the Times Reader good enough to pay for when I reviewed it in September 2006, and I have great hopes for the forthcoming version, built on Adobe’s AIR 1.5 platform. A third example of “outside” product and software design for content is Amazon’s Kindle, which thinks both outside the browser and outside the personal computer.

Unlike music and video, news is very much available on the iPhone commons, via the browser. The fungiblity of news persists on the iPhone.

The castle approach may work for books on Kindle and for movies on the iPhone because these media forms cannot be unbundled and are not perishable. But the re-bundling effect of Kindle-style e-newspaper subscriptions — selling a publisher-determined package of news stories as if they were a book — is artificial. Any device capable of connecting to the web should be capable of accessing the web could operate a standard, content-neutral browser, and this is what users will come to expect.

If I can only read books or newspapers on my mobile device, it is less valuable to me than one that can access the wider internet, where my e-mail lives, my friends hang out and new web-based applications are invented every day.

It’s even more valuable if it is a phone, camera and a music player — ensuring that potential consumers (and producers!) of journalism will carry it with them constantly. Consumers will tire of carrying separate devices for different types of media and applications.

For these reasons, I suspect that after a short period of the castle and commons models of mobile news competing and coexisting, the iPhone-like browser-based devices will win out over the Kindle-like single-application devices, effectively ruling out the quasi “iTunes for news” model being attempted by some on Kindle and similar e-readers.

Newspaper and magazine publisher Hearst is reportedly planning to launch a e-reader device of its own. The company has been investing in this technology for some time.

According to Fortune, the Hearst device will have a larger screen which “better approximates the reading experience of print periodicals, as well as giving advertisers the space and attention they require.”

Unlike Apple and Amazon, Hearst’s key media product is news, so will be particularly interesting to see whether they intend to pursue the Kindle model or the iPhone model of mobile news. Aron Pilhofer Interviewed by Associate Professor Cindy Royal at Texas State University

Aron Pilhofer talks about the New York Times' various interactive data projects. Particularly interesting idea: present political news in the form of Facebook updates. Also, on news revenue models: "We shouldn't be looking the iTunes, we should be looking for iPod. We should be looking for great platforms."