All Hail the End of Apple's App Store

Nobody seems surprised that the Financial Times is fleeing Apple's sandbox

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Despite a surge in new digital subscriptions, the Financial Times is pulling their app from iTunes, and they're being coy about why. Two months ago, Apple imposed new guidelines that required periodicals to run subscriptions through the App Store and surrender 30 percent of the revenue as a result. But according to FT chief John Ridding, the revenue matters less than the information about their readers that they miss when people subscribe through iTunes. "(Giving away) thirty percent of subscription revenue isn't something we celebrate," Ridding told paidContent recently. "But that was secondary actually--we already pay other distributors and agents; newsagents take a cut. Central to our whole strategy and all our aspirations is to have that direct relationship with the reader."

The Financial Times is the first news organization to join a growing herd of companies that are bowing out of Apple's expensive agreement. Earlier this month, Amazon, Walmart and Barnes and Noble set up their own App Store equivalents to skirt around the App Store's new requirements, and thanks to HTML5, the user experience isn't all that different. In lieu of their app, the Financial Times is directing people to their shiny new HTML5-based web app. ReadWriteWeb describes the web app as "a stripped-down version of their desktop website, with some extra controls and UI elements built in. It's not amazing, but it's comparable to some existing iPad apps for news content and it renders well on tablets."

FT's move is risky, though. Subscriptions have doubled since the release of their iPad app in April 2010, and ten percent of those come from the iPad. As Darrell Etherington at GigaOm says, newspapers might have less to lose when abandoning the app space than magazines:

So far, Apple has had mixed results when it comes to convincing publishers to embrace its subscription model, but many magazines in particular seem to be on board, and that number is growing. That might be because magazines depend more heavily on advertising dollars as opposed to subscriber info for revenue. 

No matter what, everyone will be watching the FT closely. If they manage not to lose readers by switching to the web app, other publishers will surely follow.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.