New York Times Validates Our Prediction: The year of the app-based subscription


Last week, the Wall St. Journal validated our prediction: The year of the app-based subscription.

This week, the New York Times provides validation. Check out “For Magazines, a Bitter Pill in iPad,” which describes the importance of shifting from a single-issue access to an annual subscription approach.

The Times even reiterates a key point we made: that the cost of single-issue access is often equal to or greater than the cost of a single issue of the paper edition, and that an annual app-based subscription on that basis can cost substantially more than an annual print subscription.

Our point with the prediction is that 2011 is the year that publishers will recognize the need to focus app-based subscriptions, find reasonable price points that work for them and subscribers and find a way to make it easy for subscribers to be notified and to want to reach each new issue.

The Times reports that the emergence of new tablets provides publishers will some leverage in negotiations with Apple, and we think that’s true.

The article also says that right now, publishers have to develop apps across different platforms. That’s true, too, but publishers must find a way to offer similar value at similar price points — or risk disenfranchising subscribers using non-iPad tablets.

This raises a real issue for publishers and PR functions: how many tablet and smartphone formats do you need to support? At some point, in the next few years, the feature sets and format issues will become commodities, following the path blazed by TVs and PCs, where differences among them have been reduced to marketing decisions, like available colors. The reason: the balkinization of technology just doesn’t work as a mass-market approach.

Clearly publishers and tablet manufacturers have to find a model that will be a win-win-win, making them happy and providing value to subscribers. This will require flexibility and experimentation — something Apple and its App Store and iTunes model are not know for. Therefore, a key to success here will ride on the publisher’s negotiations with competitors to Apple’s App Store.

No matter how it turns out, look for continued interest and concerns from readers who want an easy way to access magazines via their new tablets in 2011.

Do you have a solution? Let me know.

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