updated 05:40 pm EDT, Wed May 4, 2011
Hearst to offer iPad mags as iTunes subscriptions
Hearst on Wednesday afternoon became the first major magazine publisher to agree to Apple's iTunes subscription terms. Issues of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and O will be available from the July issue onwards not just individually but through either a $2 monthly subscription or $20 for an entire year. Newspaper apps would also come through the same method as well, it said, though which of its papers would go first wasn't mentioned.
The media giant didn't say how it would address the question of ads. Apple's conditions don't let Hearst or anyone else get more than a few pieces of subscriber information, and then only with the reader's permission. Magazine creators often argue that they need wide demographics to properly target their ads, but Apple has insisted on maintaining its typical approach to privacy.
Apple has been willing to make minor but important concessions, such as allowing free iTunes copies for print subscribers to Time's magazines and possibly those of other publishers.
Adding Hearst could still mark a sea change and put pressure on other publishers to follow suit. Pearson has threatened to move to Android unless it can get subscriber information and otherwise dictate more of the terms. With iPad sales still far outnumbering Android tablets, however, Pearson and others may risk marginalizing their digital business.
Sources also claimed that publishers have been warming up to Apple's terms. They told the WSJ on Wednesday that they believed they could get enough sense of their readership with Apple's limits and had been given more leeway on how they priced their content.
A more balanced approach might help fend off inroads from Google One Pass, whose royalty terms are more favorable and collect more data without requiring explicit permission from the reader. Few have openly adopted the model, due both to poor Android 3.0 tablet uptake and the rough state of Android tablet app development.