It’s been more than a decade since Apple first allowed news publishers (and others) to sell subscriptions in their iPhone or iPad apps. And one complaint has reigned all that time: It requires your users to register through Apple, not directly to you. That costs the publisher money: the full 30% of subscriber payments, month after month, year after year. And it costs the publisher relationship: restricts the ability to target offers, collect user data, and otherwise fine-tune the connection between the reader and the socket.
Apple has heard those complaints and made moves around to make their products more appealing — primarily by reducing revenue that was cut in certain circumstances. (Most of the credit here goes to video game company Epic, which is fighting a battle for more dollars against Apple’s App Store policies and international regulators. economy in countries including Japan and the Netherlands.)
But a major step came last fall, when Apple announced that it would allow certain types of iOS apps, including news apps, to completely avoid Apple’s in-app billing system. me. Apple will allow so-called reader apps — “apps that provide one or more of the following types of digital content — magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, or video — as the primary function of apps” — using an exciting new technology feature called linkAllows the app to direct the user to the publisher’s website to sign up.
Sending a potential subscriber to your site is a loss in ease of use — Apple’s one-click subscription is pretty good — but a financially disqualifying gain. You keep what used to be Apple’s share of your subscribers’ money and now friend own relationship.
The new policy was announced last September, but it didn’t take effect until March 30, and adoption was relatively slow. But now, three months later, we have the first prime example of a “reading app” promoting a non-Apple subscription: Netflix. Here is the Filipe Espósito for 9to5Mac:
As noted by many users and also confirmed by 9to5Mac, the Netflix app now uses a new iOS API for reader apps that takes the user to an external website before signing up. It’s unclear exactly when Netflix will begin rolling out this option to iPhone and iPad users, but based on reports, the rollout now appears to be rolling out worldwide.
When you tap the sign up button, a message says “you are about to exit the app and visit an external website”. The app also notes that the transaction will no longer be Apple’s responsibility and that all subscription management will be done on Netflix’s platform.
Netflix stopped using Apple’s in-app purchases in 2018, not interested in sharing revenue with the audio producer. Signing up for Netflix on an Apple device means accessing netflix.com in a web browser. Now, though, streamers can at least push people there within the app.
What does all this mean for news publishers with iPhone and iPad apps?
- Stop offering in-app subscriptions through Apple. The only reason left to give Apple 30% (or 15%) of your subscription revenue is that their in-app subscription system is incredibly easy to use. That’s not a good enough reason anymore.
- Apply for approval to link to your own registration interface. Well, the ability to link to your own site is still not a right — it’s a exclusive right. You must first sign up for Orwellian’s vague “External Links Account Permissions”. There are a few requirements, which are not a problem for most news publishers. Most importantly: Publishers may “not offer in-app purchases on iOS or iPadOS when using External Link Account Permissions”. In other words, you can use Apple’s system or your own — but you can’t use both at the same time.
- Make your own mobile check-in system as easy to use as possible. This should be a priority, no matter what Apple is doing! If someone using a smartphone wants to give you money, you should make it as easy as possible! One suggestion: Start accepting Apple Pay on your website. Selling digital goods (like subscriptions) inside iOS apps through Apple Pay has long gone against Apple’s rules. But on the web, you are free and clear. For iPhone users, Apple Pay is almost as easy a process as signing up in the app, and from a provider’s point of view, it’s almost indistinguishable from credit card payments.
- Keep testing multiple subscription plans to see which works. The rigid rules in Apple’s app made it difficult for users to experiment with different pitch steps. (First three months for 99 cents! $50/year for the rest of your life!) Smart publishers run this kind of routine testing to optimize their offers; now they can also be created for app users.
News apps on phones and tablets are not as revolutionary as some expected a decade ago. Most people who download the Daily Gazette iPhone app are familiar with the Gazette and its work. They may already be subscribers or high-quality candidates to apply for. So publishers are more likely to see their mobile apps as a tool to please now available subscribers rather than to attract New female. That is unlikely to change anytime soon.
However, any of your subscription amounts currently receiving Apple’s 30% cut are no longer available. And instead of building an alternative system that uses a lot of resources, you can simply use whichever system you have. Save that money and use it as an opportunity to make sure your reader’s checkout path goes as smoothly as possible — on any device.