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Financial Times not into Apple's publishing rules

Publication tells Reuters it is negotiating with Apple about the terms of its recently introduced subscription plan, since customer information is a key part of the company's business.

The Financial Times' iPad application, which currently allows users to subscribe from within the app outside of Apple's in-app purchase tools.
The Financial Times' iPad application, which currently allows users to subscribe from within the app outside of Apple's in-app purchase tools.

While some publishers like News Corp. and The New York Times Co. have jumped on board the digital subscription plan Apple unveiled in mid-February, others are bucking the trend, saying that subscriber relationships are too important to give up in return for the convenience of in-app purchases.

In an interview with Reuters yesterday, Rob Grimshaw, managing director of the Financial Times' Web site, said the outlet was negotiating with Apple on a deal over its iPad subscription program. Grimshaw said that since having that user information and relationship was "at the core of our business model," it wouldn't make sense to give that up to Apple in return for a way to subscribe from within the app.

"If it turns out that one or another channel doesn't mix with the way we want to do business, there's a large number of other channels available to us," Grimshaw told Reuters.

If a deal ends up being struck, it's likely to send a message to other publishers that the stipulations within Apple's new program are not set in stone.

Apple introduced its long-expected subscription program in February, offering publishers a chance to set both the price and length of subscriptions in return for Apple getting a 30 percent share. Publishers can get around the cut by bringing in existing or new subscribers from their own sites, though as part of the deal the publisher must maintain the same subscription terms and pricing elsewhere, which is problematic for publishers that want to offer special deals.

By comparison, One Pass, which was unveiled by Google just a day after Apple's subscription announcement, gives users a little more freedom, taking just a 10 percent cut and allowing publishers to retain consumer subscription data.

The Financial Times has had an iPad application for its content since May. Registered users are able to log in and enjoy their subscription benefits. The application also allows users to sign up and pay for a new subscription from within the application using their credit card, a feature that will exist until June 30 as part of a grace period outlined in a memo reportedly sent to publishers by Apple ahead of its subscription program.

According to Grimshaw, the Financial Times is up to 590,000 paying subscribers of its online site, which accounts for 40 percent of the publication's group sales. On the online site, the publication has three different subscription levels, along with a discounted volume subscription for corporate customers. By comparison, the iPad application currently only offers two tiers of subscription levels.

Last month The New York Times Co. announced its own plans to enter the Apple subscription fray as part of a new digital subscription plan, joining News Corp. and its The Daily application, which had launched as an iPad exclusive weeks ahead of Apple's subscription announcement. Other publications are expected to follow suit, or at least work on ways around the new rules in the coming months.