updated 11:10 am EDT, Wed September 21, 2011
French publishers refuse to bow to Apple terms
French publishers took a shot at challenging Apple's control over publishing terms on the iPad Wednesday with the launch of a new portal. Eight competitors, including L'Équipe and Le Figaro, are now using a common web hub, e-presse.fr, to offer at first individual issues and later subscriptions. The alliance told Reuters that they were also negotiating as a group with Apple in hopes of forcing it to change terms on the App Store and the upcoming iOS 5 Newsstand.
The group primarily wants Apple to lower its 30 percent take of revenue. Unlike in the music or movie industries, the ratio leads to a much lower profit ratio than on print and might be difficult to sustain. More controversially, however, they also insist on having access to private customer data to track ads and readership, something which Apple has refused to do outside of letting readers optionally supply a limited set of data.
Some publishers elsewhere, like the Financial Times' Pearson, have refused the model and have been booted from the App Store while having to use an HTML5 web app as an alternative. E-presse has already take advantage of Google's One Pass for Android versions, where Google only takes a 10 percent cut and lets publishers scrape customer data.
Le Figaro's Pascale Pouquet argued that giving in to Apple's terms would be worse than being excluded from Newsstand altogether. "Sometimes it's better to cut off a finger than to sever the whole arm," he said.
Apple's response, if any, isn't necessarily as clear as it was just months earlier. With Steve Jobs out as CEO and now just board chairman, his known hard line on royalties and policies might not hold. However, attempts to create independent tablet publishing groups in the past, such as Next Issue Media, have imploded. The frequently competing interests and the irrelevance of other tablet platforms outside of the iPad has largely left publishers choosing to strike App Store deals on their own rather than lose out on the tablet market.
Le Monde has exempted itself. While not necessarily averse to the others' policies, it has said that a group would bog down its decisions and wasn't needed given its own recognition as the premier French newspaper.