October 21, 2015 Last Updated 3:19 pm

Publishers may be about to lose some digital subscribers thanks to price increases

VAT changes often lead to changes in subscription price tiers, this action breaks the subscription for readers effected, forcing them to re-up their subscription, which few do

The latest update to iTunes contains a couple seemingly minor notices, one of which could impact digital publishers.

These notices involve changes in the Terms and Conditions. Most users simply click the “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions” and then click “Agree” and more on.

The first notice involves new terms being added because the Apple TV will soon have its own app store.

The second notice simply states “Price increases for In-App Subscriptions.”


Publishers are supposed to know about this, Apple actually does notify them, but I’m sure few bother to notice.

What occurs is that Apple changes the tier prices on subscriptions. Apple will not cancel existing auto-renewable subscriptions, but will let subscribers know via email that the price they pay will be changing. This causes some, of course, to opt out.

Publishers also can either leave things alone or make changes, basically lowering the price of their subscriptions. It is these adjustments to the pricing of their subscription that also breaks the deal with their customers. Customers get a notice of a price change, telling them that at the end of term they will need to repurchase their subscription.

This all seems so minor until you realize the number of monthly subscriptions that end up being expired.

There are plenty of things Apple does that publisher know kill sales, but the worst is the monthly notice that a subscriber receives that their subscription is nearing its end – it is the time they are reminded that they can cancel that monthly subscription.

Most publishers liked the monthly option as it drove sales… at first. But many of those readers begin to go away when, month after month Apple reminds them of that subscription.

Ending month subscriptions is probably the answer in the long run, but there will be pain in the short term if a publisher eliminates that option.

The point here, just to be clear, is that it is hard enough to sell a reader a subscription, but the drip, drip, drip of circulation losses is not helped by the mechanism and rules of the app store. Most major magazines hit a high in digital subscriptions 18 to 24 months ago, with many titles reporting digital subscription declines – leaving many to wonder if creating good digital editions is worth the bother (it is, but they have a point when looking at the numbers).

As for the Apple TV: Apple will begin accepting pre-order on Monday, with shipments starting later in the week. One assumes Apple will also release a software update for existing Apple TV customers.

If you were one of the lucky few to win the Apple TV developer lottery, I assume an update will come through for those devices, as well – though I am not sure. Right now the developer Apple TVs have no apps on them other than Movies and TV Shows, as well as the TestFlight app for previewing your TV apps in development.

TNM was lucky enough to get an Apple TV in the second wave to developer kits, but I admit to be struggling with developing an app – anybody want to create a TV channel, contact me.

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