March 30, 2015 Last Updated 7:19 am

Flipboard adds Apple Watch integration; seeing Newsstand as a distribution channel, rather than a point of sale

Publishers look to sell access their digital editions outside the Newsstand, often on their own websites, even linking directly from their iOS apps, something once forbidden by Apple

The joke around here has been when the first publication would begin saying they will deliver their replica edition to the Apple Watch, allowing readers to read publications “just as in print, but on your watch.” Of course, that is not how publishers will be using smartwatches, instead must likely delivering push notifications of news or issue releases.

Flip-iPad-600Flipboard, though, with its latest update, says it will deliver of its iOS app, says it will deliver more than just a notification.

“New Apple Watch integration brings you 10 Top Stories from your Flipboard with a quick summary and simple Force Touch functionality to save or send to a friend.”

That you would want ten stories sent to your watch seems unlikely, that doesn’t feel like the way most people will be using their Apple Watches, but he temptation to add Apple Watch support is to strong for many developers to resist. I would think that for most publishers, simply added support for an issue notification would be the most they would want to integrate into their existing apps – but we’ll see in less than four weeks when the Apple Watch goes on sale.

applewatch-600Oddly, there appears to be little talk this time around about a tipping point regarding sales. When Apple launched the iPad, many observers argued that sales would be too low at first to considering supporting the new platform. Apple sold three million iPads in that first quarter of sales in 2010, and the argument was that until the device reached a certain level of market penetration there would be no reason to bother developing for tablets.

(One media guru quickly dismissed the iPad entirely and has never gone back on that assessment, calling those that disagreed ‘fanboys’.)

That the Apple Watch will likely be treated simply as an extension of the iPhone, it probably one reason this time around few will talk about tipping points – arguing that any Apple Watch support is really iPhone support.


Speaking of iPad editions: when the iPad App Store first opened one of the complaints many publishers had was the 30 percent commission Apple would be taking on all digital editions sales. Some felt it too high, others simply considered it the price of doing business. A few looked for ways to go around the store by having their readers buy access on their own websites.

But Apple rules, at the time, made it pretty clear that the only way a publisher could allow a reader free access to the digital edition was if the reader was already a print subscriber – in that case, they would log into the app with their print credentials to access the digital editions.

Newsstand-News-iPadApple has loosened, or simply ignored their own rules over the years and now many publishers are seeing the Apple Newsstand less as a point of sales than simply as another retail distribution outlet. With Newsstand so badly designed and managed, this is probably wise.

Madison Magazine, which recently released its first Newsstand app, is one of those that see the Newsstand this way. (See original TNM post on the magazine here.)

The magazine updated its app this weekend and its app description mentions no changes other than one should buy access to the digital edition outside the App Store and then access the issues from inside the App Store.

I doubt Apple would ever have objected to this, even four or five years ago, so long as it wasn’t so obvious in the app description. But linking directly from the digital edition to the publisher’s website has always been a violation of the developer guidelines (and still technically is), but Apple’s App Store team has completely given up managing the Newsstand and appears as eager to kill it off as many publishers are, not managing the categories, allowing spam apps, and generally not bothering to review apps. One really wonders why Apple doesn’t just make it official and kill it off completely?

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