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Apple Newsstand ropes in longtime holdout WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has changed course on its digital subscriptions, agreeing to give Apple nearly a third of its revenue for a spot in Newsstand.

WSJ's updated app.
WSJ's updated app. Apple

Longtime holdout of Apple's Newsstand service, The Wall Street Journal changed course today, and is now offering a complete version of its paper through the paid subscription service.

The Journal has had a reader app on the App Store since early 2010, but did not allow users to subscribe using their Apple ID and linked credit card account, something that gives Apple a cut of the profit. That business model, along with a system that requires users to opt-in to sharing some of their demographic information, has been irksome for some publishers.

The new service, which went into effect yesterday and was noted by All Things D this morning, has two tiers of service. One for smartphones only that costs $12.99 a month, and a higher tier at $21.99 a month that also includes access from the iPad and the Journal's online site.

Apple launched Newsstand as part of iOS 5 in in 2011, providing a way for users to view newspapers and magazines they've purchased or subscribed to. The app also doubles as its own storefront, where users can browse and purchase content, similar to Apple's App Store, iBooks, and iTunes apps.

The Newsstand app.
The Newsstand app. CNET

Apple does not disclose what individual app makers and content providers earn on its store. The company doles out 70 percent of each sale to content creators, taking a 30 percent cut for itself. Publishers can also let existing subscribers view digital editions of content to which they already subscribe, however they're not allowed to link to outside Web sites where subscriptions can be struck outside of the App Store.

The model has had a mixed reception by publishers, some of which have sidestepped selling through Apple and opted to offer tablet-optimized subscription versions of their sites through the Web instead. One of those publishers was Time Inc., which reached a deal with Apple in June to sell some 20 of its titles including Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, and People magazine through the App Store.

The Journal's change in digital strategy comes just a week after WSJ parent company News Corp. killed off The Daily, a paid news service that launched on Apple's iPad. That project was one of the first to make use of Apple's subscription service, though failed to gain traction with users.