In the print world, the vast majority of consumer magazine publishers would give their eye teeth for subscription contracts where the agent only keeps 30%.
A dirty little secret of the U.S. magazine industry is the "negative remit" subscription, where the publisher actually pays an agent for a new subscriber to help it meet ratebase (the circulation level promised to advertisers). Because the renewal rates on such subscriptions are usually low, they're an almost-certain money loser -- except for their impact on ad revenue.
Some big publishers have banned negative-remit subscriptions, but they still have plenty of deals where the agent gets most or all of the take. To most magazine circulators, a 70% remit (what Apple is offering) sounds like heaven.
Publishers' legitimate concerns about the iPad subscription model have to do with being cut off from the subscriber. Publishers are not able to provide demographic data to advertisers about their iPad subscribers or to renew or cross-sell those subscribers.
But even those complaints look silly to some people on the Web side of the publishing business. Many publishers are making plenty of money with their Web sites without having any data on the sites' readers.
Advertisers judge the sites not based on number or type of eyeballs but rather on consumers' actions -- such as click-throughs, purchases, and sales leads. Will they end up using those same measurements for in-app ads?
Other recent commentary on the magazine industry includes:
- How Two Words Can Lick What's Ailing Publishers: I'm working on a follow-up, I promise. Readers have submitted some great suggestions for magazines that want to join the Bite Me Bandwagon.
- Stuck at the Borders: Magazine Publishers Have Failed to Explore the Amazon
- The View From The Tree : iPadded Profits?: My recent article for Publishing Executive magazine.