June 13, 2016 Last Updated 7:41 am

Apple promises very modest changes to the App Store

But digital publishers are not the target of the proposed changes, as Apple continues to ignore pleas to clean up its App Store and solve the discovery issue

What passes for an announcement in Apple’s world was made last week concerning changes to the App Store. Rather than release a press release, or send out a notice to developers, Apple sent out Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, to talk to two tech websites about minor changes it plans to the App Store.

The change that The Verge thinks is a big deal involves Apple’s share of subscription revenue – that 70-30 split that publishers have long complained about. Going forward, Apple will only take 70 percent in the first year, and after that 15 percent. For both game developers and digital publishers, the ability of an app to succeed is determined within the first few months an app is inside the App Store, so bad is the search mechanism of the App Store and its general design.


For the past three years the Newsstand (and now the Magazines & Newspapers) subcategories
have not been maintained by Apple’s App Store team.

First Apple, then the legacy publishers, gave up on the App Store as a viable distribution outlet for publishing products. Over three years ago the subcategories for the Newsstand – now the Magazines & Newspapers category – was left to rot. Even today the App Store is like the Borders on the street corner that was closed down and a new tenant not yet found. That this is the case has to be intentional, and a giant middle finger to the media, as Apple is fully aware of what its App Store looks like, and how dysfunctional it is.

To fix this, Apple is bringing back the Categories tab. What is old is new again, and is seen by Apple as an improvement. I’d call it simply fixing a previous mistake. The other change is helpful to a few large companies, however, as Apple said it will now accept promotional ads inside the App Store. The ads will be sold on an auction basis, which means that one will likely see ads only from the largest publishers, one an app like Texture.

Apple’s past experiments with advertising have been failures, and short lived ones at that. It likes to dictate the terms to both advertisers and their agencies, a strategy that has led to predictable results. iAd is now dead.

My guess is that if anyone benefits from the changes to the store it will be those revenue share vendors that live on app volume. They should see a small bump in revenue for their older apps and hopefully a few pennies will trickle down to their publishing partners. But, as I said above, so few new digital-only magazines make it past their first year or so that I will certainly not lead to a resurgence in enthusiasm for digital editions.

It’s likely too late to save the App Store as a serious distribution channel for publishers, but it changes are to be made these are just a few of the changes that might actually help the situation:

  • Start maintaining the subcategories for Magazines & Newspapers – that means putting publications into the top carousel, fixing the “New” area so that the apps really do get sorted by release data rather than by alphabetical order
  • Add an area for interactive magazines in order to encourage publishers to take digital publishing seriously and to inform readers where publications can be found that can actually be read without a magnifying glass or pinch to zoom
  • Eliminate the monthly notices to subscribers which encourage cancelations, an annual notice is enough
  • Hire an industry liaison from the publishing industry to both help Apple communicate with publishers, and the media, in general

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