Apple to Launch Subscriptions Soon, Google Working on Digital Newsstand

According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, Apple is giving final touches to its upcoming automatic billing system for apps and publications, an App Store feature expected to be launched “early this year.” The new system is Apple’s response to the increasing frustration of publishers willing to launch newspapers and magazines on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, as the lack of advanced subscription features in the App Store forces potential buyers to purchase issues of their favorite publications individually. Publishers are also increasingly pressuring Apple to lower its fees, as Apple’s 30 percent cut is considered unrealistic by some. The changes – expected to be introduced later this month – will allow publishers to offer significant discounts for long-term commitments, a model that should help significantly increase take-rates, as users would receive their publications automatically, instead of having to use iTunes to buy single issues. In order to increase their revenue via advertising and marketing, publishers have also been pressuring Apple to provide more data about the iOS users who actually buy their magazines and newspapers, but so far, the Cupertino-based company refused to share any potentially identifying information. Both camps seem to have found a middle-ground though, as the upcoming subscription system is expected to ask users their permission to share some of their personal information with the companies behind their favorite publications. According to rumors, the first publication to embrace the new model will be Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, a digital daily newspaper expected to be launched within the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Google is in talks with all major publishers to discuss the launch of an iBooks-like digital newsstand for magazines and newspapers that would run on Android. While it will likely take months for Google and publishers to come to an agreement and launch the service, Google is allegedly moving fast, in order to catch up with – and potentially beat – Apple. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is willing to take a smaller fee than Apple, and also proposed to share some personal data about app buyers to help publishers with marketing related products or services.