updated 11:50 pm EDT, Sun May 1, 2011
Time allowed to offer iPad mags for free
Time was said on Sunday night to have brokered a crucial deal with Apple to allow free downloads of iPad magazines for existing print subscribers. The plan, effective May 2, would let those subscribing to Sports Illustrated and others avoid having to buy digital versions from iTunes. Executives told the Wall Street Journal that Apple's Internet services VP Eddy Cue had been talking for "some time" to hash out a concession.
It's unknown if other publishers will get the same deal. Apple declined to comment.
The deal could signal a rare willingness to strike a balance at Apple. Its new subscription plans have created a rift with publishers that wanted to offer iPad magazines as bonuses for print users. Under the rules due to take effect in June, magazines like Time's as well as The Economist and other majors were faced with the prospect of an arbitrary split between their print and digital subscriptions since users could only subscribe to one or the other. Many have objected to Apple's refusal to hand over subscriber information to better target advertising; allowing free iTunes copies for print subscribers would be a partial step that would keep targeted ads but guarantee digital access.
Apple chief Steve Jobs may have been under pressure to make the deal. He has regularly championed the concept of a free press and has courted major traditional publishers in an attempt to make the iPad the de facto choice for magazine reading, including early access to the digital-only publication The Daily. Losing Time or others would not only jeopardize the iPad's role in that view but could encourage companies to publish first on Android, where the market is smaller but subscriber privacy controls are looser.