Apple changes App Store subscription policy, freeing up pricing for publishers

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Apple has reportedly reversed its policy on ‘in-app subscriptions’ sold through its App Store for publications such as magazines and newspapers.

The Cupertino tech giant no longer requires apps that display subscribed-to content -- such as magazines or newspapers delivered to an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch -- to also offer subscriptions within an iOS app itself.


According to the website MacRumors, which first reported on changes made to Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, the changes free up publishers’ iOS apps to access content purchased outside of Apple and possibly not even offer subscriptions through the App Store if a company so chooses.

The new guidelines, which are made available only to developers, were quoted by MacRumors:

11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app

The new policy also calls for apps to either sell subscriptions in an app or not, and requires that there is no button or link that sends a user outside of an app and to a website to sign up for a subscription.

Apple has also removed its rule that subscriptions offered through its App Store be the ‘same price or less than it is offered outside the app,’ MacRumors said, which would allow publishers to even charge a premium for in-app subscriptions to make up for the 30% revenue cut Apple takes.

The move undoes Apple’s stance in February, when it announced Apple’s App Store Subscription service saying, ‘all we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same [or better] offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one click right in the app.’


That’s now no longer the case due to the reported guideline changes. In fact, Apple now offers no rules on pricing at all, MacRumors said.

Apple officials were unavailable for comment Thursday morning.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles