With a few weeks to go before Apple starts taking a 30 percent cut of in-app tablet subscription transactions,The Financial Times, which has been vocal in its opposition, is taking the bold step of putting its eggs in the web basket.
It has launched a “web app”, which accurately accurately mimics its iPad app in HTML5, allowing it to take new subscribers on the web and, as FT.com itself reports, “bypass Apple’s iTunes Store, Google’s Android Market and other distributors to secure a direct relationship with readers”.
“We’re encouraging our readers to switch immediately to the new FT web app,” the FT says on its sell page, pitching that the web app has “no download”, “no need to visit an app store for the latest version”, “Improved performance” and a “greater range of content”.
The FT had always maintained its successful digital business relies on owning information about and the consumer relationship with its subscribers. Clearly, an impasse has been reached with Apple.
This is a significant and brave switch, because the FT has actually been quite successful with its iOS app. Last year, a tenth of new subscribers to the publisher’s cross-platform paid model came from within its iPad app.
But the FT tells paidContent:UK: “We won’t abandon iOS apps (i.e. we plan to continue to have advertising funded apps where appropriate). And we won’t remove the subscription functionality from the existing FT app on iOS. We don’t know how that is going to play out yet.” According to the FT: “(It) will encourage users to adopt the web app with a marketing campaign, including a week’s free access.”
The FT is not simply falling in with Google as a sop to Apple; this is a strategy to route around Apple itself because the app is “optimised for your iPad and iPhone”.
There is now widespread anger amongst publishers toward Apple, thanks to its intention to claim 30 percent of in-app subscription transactions, give supposedly insufficient consumer data and communicate too little with publishers. One major science publishing group is also expected to snub Apple’s devices and put its eggs in with Google and the web.
Although many other publishers have indeed started going in to iTunes Store on the new terms, for the likes of the FT and Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) the situation is descending in to a no-win/no-win, as opposed to a win-win.