updated 08:10 pm EST, Fri November 26, 2010
"Eye Candy" models also a problem for publishers
Apple has rejected a "magazine" app from Danish publisher Mediaprovider because the content was exclusively about Android, the rival mobile OS to Apple's own iOS -- reinforcing charges that Apple's censorship is heavy-handed, arbitrary and in some cases hypocritical -- in fact, a magazine app from the Netherlands called Androidworld Reader is already available on the App Store. While the App Store features dozens of magazines that have some discussion of other mobile operating systems in them -- Wired's popular iPad app being a prime example -- the fact that Android Magasinet is devoted exclusively to Google's smartphone OS was cited as the deciding factor, says publisher Brian Dixen.
Where Apple can -- or should -- draw the line has been a hotly-debated question since the App Store first opened. For example, the App Store bars all forms of nudity, even when the intent is clearly not sexual. European attitudes on the human form, generally very relaxed compared to those of the US, result in advertising and other uses of nudity having to be edited out of anything offered on the App Store. However, "educational" sexual apps are not only allowed, but are frequently at the top of the best-selling polls and thus inadvertently "featured" by the App Store. The company "purged" some 5,000 sexually suggestive apps from the App Store last February, but many remain. While such apps come with an age rating, apart from the use of Parental Controls there is nothing actually done by the App Store to block the purchase and use of age-inappropriate apps.
Dixen cries foul, noting that another of his publications -- iPhone Magasinet -- had no problem getting approved. Dixen also ran afoul of Apple guidelines when another of his magazines, Gear -- dealing with gadgets generally -- featured partially-clothed models on the cover. Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet had similar rejections due to their use of a "page nine girl," a popular feature in European publications that features a nude or topless woman inside the magazine in an effort to keep readers turning the page. German publisher Bild encountered this restriction back in March of this year.
The company has also garnered criticism of capricious censorship of language -- that temporarily saw it barring literary classics like James Joyce's Ulysses and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest -- while at the same time offering movies and podcasts loaded with profanity with only the MPAA rating to guide purchasers. The company also voluntarily blocked apps featuring the Dalai Llama from the Chinese version of the app store, and barred violent comic books while not censoring similarly-violent movies or TV shows.
Dixen complains that Apple's censorship -- and the time it takes to get "controversial" issues approved or rejected -- hurts the value of the publications. "We have to get not only our apps but every single copy of our magazines approved," he says. "I wonder what will happen if we choose to make the next issue of our magazine about mobile phones in general a theme issue about Android." He says that approvals can take up to two weeks, meaning information in the publication may be out-of-date by the time it appears.
Apple itself has struggled with where and how far to control controversial app content, often drawing ire from frustrated developers. Apple Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller says the company has attempted to respond to complaints from women and parents, but when asked by the New York Times about the Sports Illustrated "Swimsuit Issue" app -- which seems to define the very meaning of the term "salacious" -- defended the difference between it and similar apps as being from "a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format."
"[The whole incident is] funny really because I don't think we would sell many magazines on Android through Apple App Store," adds Dixen, "but the question is where this is going." [via MediaWatch]