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Who Owns the Relationship with Digital Subscribers—Publishers, or Apple?

Jun 13, 2011 | By Xconomy

The ascent of smartphones and tablets is causing a seismic shift in the way media companies reach consumers.

As an iPad and iPhone owner, I now consume the bulk of my media online. Whether it’s the Kindle App, Netflix, HBO Go, or Hulu, media companies have rapidly realized that they can use the new platforms to increase engagement with their existing audiences while also reaching new consumers who have grown up with Internet-based media as the norm rather than the exception.

Yet the advent of these new platforms and the services around them also raise the challenge of disintermediation. To be specific, look at the subscription initiatives recently launched by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, governing how media companies can sell their digital wares via mobile app stores. In the iTunes App Store, media companies can now sell subscriptions, with Apple taking a 30 percent fee. Additionally, the original set of rules stipulated that a media company using the App Store could not sell that same digital subscription at a different price on their own or on any other store—though very recent reports suggest that Apple is backing down from that provision…

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