The shelf sits empty in the iOS 5 beta. Newsstand is present on homescreens but it is curiously unavailable to all beta-testers. Clicking the icon reveals an iBooks like interface with a nice little message, “You can download magazines and newspapers in the App Store.” That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
As it stands now, newspapers and magazines make a mess of your homescreen and clearly Apple has plans to tidy that up a little bit in the very near future. But, the new-age Newsstand from Apple may be facing a fight from a conglomerate of French newspapers and magazines. Instead of fighting Apple on their digital subscription policies one by one, they’ve teamed up to negotiate together as one big group according to Reuters.
The negotiations include some of France’s most influential newspapers and magazines, including “L’Equipe, Le Figaro, Les Echos, and le Nouvel Observateur. According to Reuters, the companies are currently negotiating their inclusion in the Newsstand application set to release next month alongside iOS 5, but they are all refusing to join the program unless Apple makes some key concessions, rumored to be tighter control of their subscription demographic information for readers as well as a cheaper commission for Apple.
Xavier Spender, an executive with L’Equipe, realized he had a slight problem, “Once Apple’s commission and taxes were taken into account, Spender said: ‘I make less money selling a digital edition of the newspaper than I do on the print edition sold in a kiosk.'”
It doesn’t end there either. The consortium has put together web-based applications just in case the negotiations with Apple don’t end up going in their favor.
It’s clearly a sticky situation for Apple. Should Apple cave and give in to publisher demand, they’ll likely hear from every developer on the App Store asking for the same concessions. The crazy thing is that Apple originally encouraged developers to create web apps when they first shipped the iPhone, clearly having no intention of giving developers access to basic phone features or an SDK. It looks like developers are starting to take them up on that now that big business is starting to question whether the 30 percent cut is worth it for their bottom line.
Personally I’m not sold that reading magazines and newspapers on the iPad are the future. I still personally prefer print versions of a magazine to the iPad. It will be very interesting to see how Apple plays this game with the French publisher consortium. Who blinks first? The iPad as a news device really needs publishers onboard if it’s going to be successful across all demographics, but it’s looking like The Financial Times may not be the only company fighting back these days.