French papers team up in attempt to force Apple into concessions on subscriptions

“Apple’s tight control over media content on its iPad is about to fall foul of some of France’s most powerful newspapers and magazines, which hope that by teaming up they can stop the technology giant from dictating the terms of their distribution,” Leila Abboud and Gwénaëlle Barzic report for Reuters.

MacDailyNews Take: There is no “tight control over media content” by Apple on iPad as the reporters themselves will prove in just a moment.

“The bid by eight publications, including newspaper Le Figaro and sports daily L’Equipe, is the latest sign of growing disillusionment among some global publishers over what they consider Apple’s rigid terms and high commission of 30 percent,” Abboud and Barzic report. “The French publications, which also include business daily Les Echos and news weekly le Nouvel Observateur, have launched a digital kiosk to sell individual issues on the iPad and will soon add subscriptions and bundled offers. They are also negotiating with Apple as a collective, and will not sell their products on Apple’s own kiosk, dubbed the Newsstand, set to launch next month, without key concessions.”

MacDailyNews Take: Just shut up and go it alone if you think Apple’s offering isn’t worth the commission. A handful of French rags aren’t going to force Apple to do jacques sheet.

Abboud and Barzic report, “The highbrow daily Le Monde is the notable absentee. Chairman Louis Dreyfus said the paper believed that its brand was strong enough to attract users on-line without saddling itself with a slow group decision-making process… In June, the UK’s top business paper, the Financial Times, owned by Pearson , launched its own web-based application, which allows people to read and subscribe on the iPad without going through Apple’s online store. By using a new technology known as HTML-5, the FT created a way for its readers to access the paper while sidestepping Apple’s 30 percent commission and allowing the company to hold on to valuable subscriber data.”

MacDailyNews Take: Proving that there is no “tight control over media content” by Apple on iPad. We won’t hold our breath for an apology and retraction from Abboud and Barzic for their erroneous reporting.

Abboud and Barzic report, “Ken Doctor, author of the book ‘Newsonomics’ and media industry expert, warns that such groupings have a mixed track record because the individual business interests of the members often prove impossible to reconcile. For example, Next Issue Media was created last year by the five major U.S. magazine publishers Conde Nast, News Corp. , Time Inc., Meredith Corp. and Hearst to create a digital kiosk and earn more from paid online content. In the end, its members splintered and signed separate deals with Apple for distribution on the iPad, Doctor said. ‘It’s a cautionary tale,’ said Doctor. ‘”They were not able to use their old world market power.'”

MacDailyNews Take: Histoire doit répéter.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Again, publishers who don’t like Apple’s terms are more than welcome to invest in the creation of Web apps if they mistakenly believe that will net them more profits.

Furthermore, with App Store subscriptions, Apple’s on the side of the consumer yet again. Anytime you read differently, it’s highly likely coming from a publication that wants to continue to be able to force your name, address, telephone number, email address, credit card number, credit card security code, job title, job responsibility, and industry from you at the time of subscription. We’d rather have Apple closely hold the data than have it strewn among media companies for them to sell to marketeers.


  1. key point: “valuable subscriber data”

    This has NOTHING to do with Subscriptions, nor commission.

    It is about spying on the readers, collecting their history, habits, and selling it to any and all who will pay them for it.

    Apple to my knowledge is the ONLY corporation fighting this slimy, unseen practice, and the “media” companies hate this. YOU are the growing product segment, they attract you with exaggerations, stimulations, and often out right lies so they can collect your data and sell it.

    1. I was wondering… Is this “valuable subscriber data” the [only] reason going web app is not (would not be) making as much as a native app for publishers??

      I thought a technical reason would also play some role in this “fight”.

    2. The only reason magazines (virtually ALL magazines out there) have continued to successfully exist at subscription prices of $12 per year (a dollar per copy) is because of that valuable data. Not one of the thousands of shiny, 300-page thick monthly publications would have survived without access to that data. The only alternative would be to charge nearly the same price as at newsstand (i.e. say, $60 per year). At those rates, nobody would ever bother subscribing.

      Average consumer likes free best (such as free cellphone with plan, free broadcast TV programme, etc). Next best is heavily subsidised, cheap (such as the $200 with plan iPhone, or $1 per copy magazine subscription). Average consumer will almost never accept full, non-discounted, non-subsidised price. This explain why there are so very few magazines that don’t subsidise their operations by selling advertising.

      Apple’s quest, while very noble (from consumer’s angle) is no realistic. It is virtually impossible for magazines to generate enough advertising revenue to cover operations without giving those advertisers access to detailed profile of their target.

      In all fairness, while I genuinely dislike advertising within some other context (news/entertainment), I would much prefer sniper attacks rather than carpet bombing; collateral damage is significantly lower. Translated into the context of our discussion, I’d much rater advertiser(s) know about my likes and dislikes and not inundate me with ads for cars (I live in Manhattan and don’t drive), retractable awnings (I live in a rented apartment), car insurance (see above) and other stuff I absolutely don’t care about. If anonymous access to my preferences means advertisers will reduce the volume but increase the relevance, I’m all for it.

      1. Apple’s not completely withholding subscriber information from them. If the subscriber opts in, that subscriber information is still available.

        The most insulting thing about this is the way they want to insist on taking that choice away from the subscriber. I don’t care whether this is “realistic” or not – Apple needs to hold the line on this.

        We’ve got enough loss of privacy as it is, and Apple is well-positioned to become a champion of user data privacy in the future. (Especially once laws get passed to enforce user data privacy, Apple will be well ahead of the curve in terms of compliance.)

        1. In all fairness, magazines have long existed, and continue to exist in EU, where privacy laws don’t allow sharing of anywhere near the amount of data that is routinely harvested (and sold) by the US publishers.

          In other words, it IS possible to build a business model with an advertising component, even if the data on your advertising target is not as detailed or as precise as one would like it to be.

      1. Isn’t it wonderful when we have a common target to laugh at…

        For those who seem to be ignorant enough to make use of the absurdly inappropriate stereotype, just a historical reminder: over half a million French died during the WWII, and almost half of those were in combat against the axis powers (KIA/MIA). Only a handful of countries around the world have suffered greater losses.

        But don’t let that stop you to have fun at their expense…

        1. U Thant was pounding the opening gavel of the United Nations General Assembly when he asked “All those of you who are Canadian, American or British please raise your hand. All those of you who are French, raise both hands.”

      1. Lighten up.
        It’s OK for you to pass on your lack of knowledge concerning civil rights and other facts of US history, but kid about an incident that we all know is based on a few incidents and you get your panties in a wad.

        Tell us again why you moved here from Europe?

  2. While it’s certainly understandable that companies would want to keep as revenue for themselves as possible, web apps aren’t the answer to device apps. When trying a web app, what you’ll notice is that the pages still load like a web page (because it IS a web page) and content isn’t stored on your device like regular apps. Not to mention that this requires use of the one of the safari windows. I often leave my Safari windows open as placeholders and would rather not have to close one in order to launch a web app. These magazine companies should also take into account how many more subscribers they now have BECAUSE of the mobility provided by Apple devices. I’d say Apple’s demand of 30% is no less fair than the mark-up charged by the magazines for subscriptions.

  3. There really is an opportunity to make money from Apple’s service.
    For me, Apple’s iBook app has allowed me to rediscover reader. I buy books on regular basis and read even when I have a spare 10 mins or waiting in line. In past past 6 months I have bought over a dozen books and spent close to $100. Some books are free or very cheap so that tells you that this service is working and can generate revenue. This is on an iPhone so I can imagine how much better the experience will be on an iPad.
    So the opportunity is there to get users on mobile devices. My phone is always with me and now so are my books.

    1. Guess what, I have learned how to create eBooks using Apple’s Pages on the Mac. It is super easy once you understand how.

      Anyone who is sharp can knock a digital book out in minutes.

      I am surprised so few have picked up on that. No need to go through a publishing house. More who teach for a living need to be aware of what is possible.

  4. Currently in the uk there is an ad running on radio stations which speculates (amongst other things) that in 2114 all newspapers in the world will be free. It’s an interesting concept with possibly an element of truth. Perhaps the frogs are trying to squeeze the last out of their readers before this actually happens.

  5. France under Napoleon controlled most of Europe and even occupied Russia. It is no longer the power it was; like America whose best days are behind it. Your military experiments end in failure. You are disliked even by your allies. And you are now poor. So dirt poor that you are all but owned by the Chinese.

    France has lost her empire but at least she has fine culture, good food and history. We lost our place in the world whilst making the most of it drinking wine and eating foie gras. You seem to be going down whilst scoffing fried food with your fingers and making the same old jokes about the Germans.

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