26 Nov

FarukAt.eş – Micro-payments And The Web

In 2003, Apple’s iTunes Store proved an important point about online/digital economies: people are perfectly willing to pay for content they consume, as long as you maximize return value and minimize all required effort and friction in paying. Online publishing has, thus far, done a poor job at mimicking this concept.

The two types of content aren’t parallels, however; news content on the web is typically consumed for free (thanks to everyone offering content for free on the web for the first ten years), whereas iTunes content is typically paid for up front, and consumed only thereafter. The failure of paywalls shows that when it comes to news on the web, people are ill-inclined to pay up front before they can read an article. That same truth makes it hard to convince people to sign up for subscriptions unless you offer additional value, but with news it’s hard to come up with valuable offerings that don’t involve withholding some news from non-subscribers.

I’ve only very superficially described this problem so far, but already you can see the complexities and challenges publishers face. So what’s the solution?

via FarukAt.eş – Micro-payments And The Web. One of the great big problems on the web today is how to make money from publishing content (if your end goal is making money from content). I think the solution isn’t as simple as merely paying for every dip into the stream you get from a publisher as Faruk proposes but half the solution is making the payment process minimal.

05 Sep

Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

I get a lot of e-mail from writers starting out who want to know whether it’s worth trying to get published by major houses. The odds are poor – only a small fraction of books find a home in mainstream publishing – and the process can be slow and frustrating. We’ve all heard horror stories, both legit (‘‘Why is there a white girl on the cover of my book about a black girl?’’) and suspect (‘‘My editor was a philistine who simply didn’t understand the nuances of my work’’). And we’ve all heard about writers who’ve met with modest – or stellar – success with self-publishing. So why not cut out the middleman and go direct to readers?

There’s not a thing wrong with that plan, provided that it is a plan. Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).

I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.

via Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? Cory Doctorow who certainly doesn’t seem to need traditional publishers, penning a nice piece in favor of publishers.

17 Jun

Ars Technica – Apple quietly drops special subscription requirements for iOS apps

Apple revised its App Store review guidelines this week, noting (among other changes) that apps are no longer required to offer an in-app subscription option. Content providers can continue to offer outside subscriptions that are accessible via an iOS app, so long as no external links to outside purchasing mechanisms are built into the app. If subscribers can pay for content within the app, it must use in-app purchasing APIs, though content providers are now free to set whatever price they like.

These changes should address one of the major complaints about Apple’s subscription requirements, allowing content providers to set pricing to account for Apple’s 30 percent take. Also, it clearly spells out that services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Kindle, and others can continue to give its users access to content paid for via subscriptions that are handled outside the app or the App Store.

These changes don’t address the other major complaint that content providers have, namely that they won’t be able to collect detailed demographic information directly from subscriptions paid for via in-app purchasing. However, Apple allows latitude for developers to optionally request the information from users as long as the requested information and its transmission and storage are covered by a privacy policy compatible with Apple’s own.

While the timing of the changes comes a few weeks before the previous June 30 deadline, it’s also worth noting that they were published just one day after the Financial Times announced its strategy to offer subscribers access to its content via a Web app, which bypasses Apple’s App Store requirements and its 30 percent commission entirely. While some publishers already announced plans to support Apple’s previous in-app subscription plan, Apple’s changes may encourage others to produce native apps instead of Web apps. While Web apps offer cross-platform compatibility and don’t require Apple’s approval, native apps tend to have better performance and integration with iOS’s native user interface.

via Ars Technica – Apple quietly drops special subscription requirements for iOS apps. I’m glad Apple cleared this mess up. The new rules feel much more balanced for both publishers and Apple.

10 Jun

Mac Rumors – Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions

Apple has quietly changed its guidelines on the pricing of In-App Subscriptions on the App Store. There are no longer any requirements that a subscription be the "same price or less than it is offered outside the app". There are no longer any guidelines about price at all. Apple also removed the requirement that external subscriptions must be also offered as an in-app purchase.

via Mac Rumors – Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions. Good news for publishers and services like Amazon’s Kindle and Netflix.

07 Jun

NYTimes.com – Financial Times Introduces Web App in Effort to Bypass Apple

The Financial Times on Tuesday introduced a mobile Web application aimed at luring readers away from Apple’s iTunes App Store, throwing down the gauntlet over new business conditions that Apple is set to impose on publishers who sell digital subscriptions via iTunes.

A number of publishers have expressed their displeasure with Apple’s plan to retain 30 percent of the revenue from subscriptions sold on iTunes, and to keep customer data from such sales, beginning at the end of June. At the same time, mobile applications are a fast-growing source of new readers and revenue, so publishers have been reluctant to pull their applications from the iTunes store.

via NYTimes.com – Financial Times Introduces Web App in Effort to Bypass Apple. The first big name publisher to switch to a web app for publishing and not deal with Apple’s 30% cut.

13 May

The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web

Today at Google I/O, we launched the developer API of Google In-App Payments for the web. In-App Payments enables any web application to receive payments from users and keep them engaged in your application. It is available to all US developers in sandbox today and will be followed by a consumer launch and an international rollout over the summer.

via The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web. The most interesting part of this is the 5% fee, most payment services charge 2-3%, so double that for Google to cover their hosting costs and such and it seems pretty reasonable. Here is where it gets interesting this puts Apple at a distinct dis-advantage. Apple charges 30% on everything (purchase an app, music, in-app purchases, etc). For ebook readers this creates a non-existent business model due to the agency model that publishers now require all books sold to recieve 70% of the purchase price (ie not wholesale price but what the customer actually paid). So 30% to Apple and 70% to the publisher means nothing get’s left over for the middle-person. That 70% cut could be argued as a problem, but the publisher is one paying for the advertising, development and writing of the book itself, 70% seems like an acceptable cut.

Google is really demonstrating what seems like the fairer margin for the service that serves, stores, builds the store, etc. Apples cut feels too high. Apple does valuable work and important work and it’s a fair argument that without all of Apple’s work there wouldn’t even be this store or platform for developers and publishers to sell their content. But the margin that Apple takes doesn’t seem right, especially when looking at e-books. Etsy is a great example of where the fees seem much more realistic, 20 cents per item listed and 3.5% sales fee. There is a business model that is working and doing much the same as Apple currently is with their App Store. Apple’s cut is so out of portion to everything else comparable is the real problem.

I’ll agree that this is defiantly a subjective claim as it’s hard to state what is and isn’t a viable or reasonable business model, and certainly Apple can charge a 30% or 5% or 90% fee and they are within their rights to do so. The argument can also be made, that a business shouldn’t bet their model on Apple treating them fairly cause that’s never a good idea, Apple defiantly does what is right for Apple. However if Apple doesn’t change their stance I can defiantly see Amazon just pulling out of the App Store and launching their service as a web app. It’s not the best solution for them, but it’s better than Apple taking every penny they make on e-books, especially when the competing smartphone platform takes only 5%.

02 Apr

Nieman Journalism Lab – Baseless speculation! Frank Rich and the price of paywalls for writers

So publishers are turning away from models that emphasize economies of abundance, and toward ones that impose economies of scarcity: apps. Paywalls. Subscriptions. Et cetera. By strategically isolating their content from the pulsing, prodding world of the open web, outlets are attempting to reclaim analog artifacts of containment for a digital world whose every impulse is expansion.

Whether that will work as a business model remains to be seen. But it leads, it’s worth noting, to a basic problem: Increasingly, the motivations of writers and the motivations of the businesses they work for are at odds with each other. Journalists, enabled by the web, are increasingly defining success according to exposure, and news organizations are increasingly defining success according to the limitation of exposure. That’s a huge generalization, sure, but one that will become increasingly valid, I think, in an ecosystem that imposes a tension between walled gardens and open fields.

via Nieman Journalism Lab – Baseless speculation! Frank Rich and the price of paywalls for writers. Good point to recognize this difference, but the point must still be made that both need to be paid, and half to find a system that enables writers and publishers to make money off the content.

22 Mar

Lendle – Amazon revokes Lendle’s API access Update

Update, March 22nd, 2011: We’re thrilled to report that Amazon has reinstated our API access, and Lendle is back up and running. Welcome back, Lendlers!

Late today, we received an email from an Associates Account Specialist at Amazon informing us that their concern only relates to our Book Sync tool, which syncs a user’s Kindle books with their Lendle account. Amazon informed us that if we disabled this feature, our access to the API, as well as our Amazon Associates account, would be reinstated. We appreciate Amazon’s willingness to modify the original access revocation email and work with us to get Lendle back on line. We have complied with the request to disable the book sync tool (which was a very useful, but non-essential, feature of Lendle).

We’ve learned a lot through this process, and have come to realize we need to work towards a Lendle product that does not rely on APIs provided by Amazon or any other third party. To that end, we’ve already begun brainstorming the next version of Lendle. Suffice it to say, we’ll continue to make good on our promise to keep Lendle the easiest, fastest, fairest, and best way to lend and borrow Kindle books.

via Lendle – Amazon revokes Lendle’s API access Update. Let’s hear it, good job Amazon on getting in touch with Lendle and coming to a reasonable solution.

20 Mar

Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report – You are all in publishing!

But right now (and always) there is a need for design to also be about the big strategic issues. And right now, as much as design is wrestling with open vs. proprietary formats and the old challenges of new devices, design is also very much in the service of applications and publishing. Who gets content, who pays for it, how it is distributed (and how evenly), the balance between broadcast and conversation, editor and user—these are the issues of this moment, and it is designers even more than editors who will answer these riddles.

via Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report – You are all in publishing!. Working on the web, means you are in publishing.

27 Feb

NYTimes.com – HarperCollins Limits E-Book Lending by Libraries

HarperCollins, the publisher of Michael Crichton, Sarah Palin and Dennis Lehane, said on Friday that it had revised its restrictions for libraries that offer its e-books to patrons.

Until now, libraries that have paid for the privilege of making a publisher’s e-books available for borrowing have typically been granted the right to lend an e-book — say, the latest John Grisham thriller — an unlimited number of times. Like print books, e-books in libraries are lent to one person at a time, often for two weeks. Then the book automatically expires from the borrower’s account.

HarperCollins said on Friday that it had changed its mind. Beginning March 7, its books may be checked out only 26 times before the license expires.

via NYTimes.com – HarperCollins Limits E-Book Lending by Libraries. What total crud, publishers are just hurting themselves by not allowing libraries to loan out their books.