Time Inc., the largest magazine company in the United States, has stopped resisting Apple. Striking a deal similar to that signed by its major competitors a year ago, the Time Warner-owned publisher agreed on Wednesday to sell subscriptions to all 20 of its titles, which include high-circulation weeklies such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated, through the Newsstand section of Apple’s iOS App Store.
The decision represents a considerable change of heart for a publisher that was “once the magazine industry’s most ardent opponent of selling subscriptions through Apple,” according to Amy Chozick of the New York Times.
Until now, Time Inc.’s readers have only been able to access single issues of the iPad editions of its magazines through the Newsstand app, with print subscribers alone receiving regular automatic uploads.
Time Inc.’s recalcitrance toward Apple since the launch of Newsstand last fall was motivated in part by the hard bargain that the technology giant drives with publishers. Beyond the profit share arrangement whereby Apple demands a contentious 30% commission on subscriptions purchased through its Newsstand, Apple’s previous unwillingness to share the personal information of iOS magazine subscribers with publishers was a deal-breaker for Time Inc.
Jeffrey L. Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, reportedly clarified to the New York Times in a November 30, 2011 interview why Time Inc. had not ceded to Apple’s demands for a digital subscriptions partnership: “They want you to be subscribing to them, and the last time we looked they weren’t making the magazines,” Bewkes said of Apple.
Subscriber data is of particular value to news publishers in today’s climate not only because it gives them the opportunity to show advertisers who their content is reaching, allowing for better-targeted ads, but also because having direct access to customers improves publishers’ ability to hold on to them in the long term, and to sell them other products, reports Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal.
However, Apple appears to have “become a more agreeable partner” in the eyes of publishing executives of late, as competition from Amazon and Google has forced it to loosen up on some of its initial restrictions, according to the New York Times. Now readers are given the option of sharing their information with publishers, and a survey from the Association of Magazine Media shows that 66% of tablet users claim that they would be willing to do so in exchange for ads that suit them.
Time Inc. is the last of its competitors to strike a deal with Apple, with Advance Publications Inc.’s Condé Nast and Hearst Corp. having signed Newsstand distribution deals a year ago. Industry commentators are attributing the turnaround to Laura Lang, a digital advertising expert who took over as CEO of Time Inc. in January. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lang said that she began talks with Apple immediately upon joining Time Inc. “It was a priority for me to make sure that our publications are available where our consumers are,” she is quoted as saying. “We now have what we need to deliver the right experience for them.”
Image Credit: Time