Apple's new subscription rules requiring publishers to fork over 30% of revenue generated from apps in the iTunes Store have claimed their biggest victim to date. As of last night, the iPhone and iPad apps for the Financial Times went missing from the App Store.
The new rules have not thrilled publishers, but reactions have been mixed. Some media companies, like Hulu and the New York Times, have decided to play along with Apple and offer a significant cut of their subscription revenue to the tech giant in exchange for access to millions of iTunes customers. Others, like Amazon, have opted to build HTML5 Web apps as a way to circumvent the new rules.
The Financial Times is another outlet to go the HTML5 route, having launched a tablet-friendly Web app for their publication in June. So while their native iOS apps may no longer show up in the iTunes App Store, tablet users can still venture to app.ft.com to read the paper's content. That assumes, of course, that "they" are paying subscribers, since the FT is one of the few media companies who have successfully placed a pay wall around its written content.
Their Web app is essentially a stripped-down version of their desktop website, with some extra controls and UI elements built in. It's not amazing, but it's comparable to some existing iPad apps for news content and it renders well on tablets. Most importantly, from their standpoint, it maintains the publication's paywall without the need to shell out 30% of their revenue to Apple each month.
Still, being pulled from such a widely-used platform has to hurt subscription revenue, at least at first. PaidContent estimates that the FT iPad app may have had as many as 10,000 users.
It remains to be seen what kind of impact this will have on the FT's overall subscription revenue. While it may take a hit initially, if they can properly market the Web app to tablet owners (iPads, Android tablets or otherwise), perhaps they can manage to make up the difference.