11 Comments

Summary:

Issuu, a popular document sharing service that may have provided some competition for Apple’s planned digital newsstand, has abandoned plans to release an iOS app after Apple rejected the company three times. The company hinted that its openness was the cause of its rejection.

Screen shot 2010-11-24 at 10.00.01 AM

Issuu, a popular document sharing service that may have provided some competition for Apple’s planned digital newsstand, has abandoned plans to release an iOS app after Apple rejected the company three times. The New York-based firm isn’t divulging many details, but hinted in its blog that its openness was the cause of its rejection by Apple. “Based on the latest rejection, we don’t think it’s realistic that we can get it approved,” Issuu co-founder and spokesman Martin Ferro-Thomsen told me in an interview. “We would have to make some changes we’re not comfortable with. We would have to restrict the community more than we’d like to. It’s really a sad day for us, because we love Apple, but it’s their platform and App Store, and we just live in it.”

Ferro-Thomsen speculated that Apple’s reported plans to launch a newsstand may have contributed to Issuu’s rejection. He said Issuu distributes its publications for free but is likely to consider a paid store in the next year, something that may compete against an Apple offering. Apple did not return a request for a comment. If the rejection is tied to Apple’s digital publishing platform, the issue raises questions about how much competition Apple will allow in its App Store. Apple has been criticized in the past for its opaque app review policies and has been investigated by regulators over its rejection of the Google Voice app. The company has more recently relaxed its stance somewhat and released App Store Review Guidelines. The rejection could also stem from concerns about content on Issuu. While Issuu has its own guidelines barring obscene and pornographic content, it may not have been enough to satisfy Apple, which has a history of denying apps that contain nudity or defamatory content.

Issuu first began as a free PDF reader and document-sharing site that became a popular platform for publishing magazines, newspapers and catalogs because of its magazine-like look and feel. The company decided last year to take the service to smartphones and tablets with Issuu Mobile, an app. In December of last year, the company released an Android app, which features access to 2 million publications, and has been downloaded 125,000 times. An iPhone app followed in the spring but was rejected, followed by another rejection this past summer. The latest denial came yesterday.

Issuu, which boasts more than 33 million readers, is popular with some independent magazines looking to build a following. It also hosts a lot of catalogs for companies, and recently unveiled a new ad system. Big-name publishers have turned to Issuu to preview a portion of their magazines, similar to a trailer for a magazine. Though Issuu hasn’t attracted very high-profile publications (though the New York Times’ T Magazine is one), it represents an easy way for smaller publishers to make their content available to consumers. Issuu only takes a flat fee for hosting the content for Issuu Pro users. Apple, meanwhile, is reportedly looking to get a cut of the ad revenue and manage subscription databases for publications in its newsstand, something some publishers are leery of.

There’s a possibility Apple has legitimate concerns about Issuu that neither company is divulging. But the repeated rejections open the door for some unflattering speculation. Apple has shown it can abide with competition like Amazon’s Kindle app, but it may be taking a tougher stance on competitors to its newsstand or at least until the service gets well off the ground.

Ferro-Thomsen said while Apple has been unwelcoming, Google, on the other hand, has been very helpful. The search giant distributes content on Issuu and even shipped an early Nexus One to Issuu to help it launch its Android app. Now, Issuu is looking at building up its HTML5 version of its website to reach out to iOS users. He said the company had built some basic functionality in, but will need to expand that to fully recreate the Issuu feel.

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  1. Matthew Frederick Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    “He said Issuu distributes its publications for free but is likely to consider a paid store in the next year, something that may compete against an Apple offering.”

    I guess it’s possible, but they certainly haven’t restricted competitors to their iBook store, with plenty of paid and free options. Not sure why periodicals would be any different.

  2. Matthew Frederick Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    With all the talk about openess and not wanting to restrict their community, I’d guess it’s much more likely a matter of Issuu wanting to allow content that Apple wouldn’t allow, e.g. adult stuff.

  3. I publish a nine-year-old monthly magazine that utilizes ISSUU’s services with a “PRO Account.” To follow is my post on the ISSUU blog announcing the disappointing news with a couple suggestions for ISSUU:

    “Very disappointing!

    It has been obvious to me for a while that Apple had some kind of issue with the ISSUU app. It was due to be available via itunes in the “1st Quarter of 2010″ and I joined ISSUU because of it.

    I feared the problem with Apple was either because ISSUU was too aggressive promoting their yet-to-be approved app or, my primary fear, that it crossed over into a realm (publication delivery) Apple ultimately had plans for. Similar to with other types of media delivery (books, music, movies, etc.). I’ve been touting the Android app for a while and have personally installed it on many of the phones of many readers and advertising clients. But, unfortunately, the ability for my magazine to be read on smart phones wasn’t going to be “real” to me until I could from my iphone. I’ve been promoting the fact an iphone app was coming soon for over a year. Even today, I have the ISSUU iphone app video/commercial embedded on the front page of my site, a reference to it in my e-mail signature and make reference to the app coming soon in every issue I print.

    But if it this problem is because of the more extreme content found on ISSUU, I’m actually relieved and strongly suggest not giving up. I’m a 36-year-old guy and love (female) nudity as much as the next fellow. And I must admit I have only looked at a handful of other magazines published on ISSUU. So I don’t have a good grasp for what kind of content many of the other magazines are publishing although I did come across at least one with nudity. Here in Texas (USA), I know I must be careful not to cross any line as this is not the time to upset and lose any clients (or start a magazine burning campaign). And the lines I have to avoid crossing come far, far before nudity of any kind. That would be terrible for my business and would basically put me into a different classification of business all together. And I can understand if Apple doesn’t want any part of that business. I think Steve Jobs has said as much publicly.

    I’m not asking for any changes in that area on ISSUU per see. But when I upload an issue to ISSUU, I believe there is an area where I rate the content (suitable for children, etc.). How hard would it be to use that variable or even add another asking about nudity/sexual situations/etc. which could protect Apple to make sure certain content is not available via the app? Again, I’m no prude. But business is business and I’m guessing 90% or more of the content on ISSUU isn’t of the “sexual-orentated” type. How hard would it be to filter that small percentage out of the app? And I know that “suggesting to “filter” content is like declaring war to some and like kissing your sister to others. But business is business and I honestly wonder what percentage of the content currently on ISSUU is causing this problem and resulting in 100% of it being excluded.

    I said that one reason I joined ISSUU was the iphone app. That is true. But now that I have been a “PRO” member for over a year, I don’t plan to leave. But for the first time in 8 months I must entertain the thought and will be looking into some of the other “players” because being shut out of the IOS environment is not acceptable. And neither is ISSUU giving up. Especially if the problems resulting in rejection have been defined.

    Now if there are more/other issues to why Apple has rejected the app, please share. Obviously the message I got from the carefully-crafted announcement (“without restriction or censorship”) was that it was about content. But if it was more, please let us know. Even as a customer, I’m not going to demand to know why it was rejected each time. But since I literally am a customer because of the promise of an iphone app, I don’t want ISSUU to give up on the app and I, in return, will not give up on ISSUU. Sound fair?

    A second option: Could ISSUU assist publications to develop their own app using the ISSUU technology? Even if for an additional — but reasonable — price? I would be very interested in that. That way we each are judged by Apple on the merits of our own content and not by only the most extreme of us? Plus, an app with our own brand would bring additional value to hopefully justify the added expense.

    I ask other publishers to weigh in on my suggestions. Thanks!”

  4. This article is the wildly speculative nonsense. Based on zero evidence the strong impression is given throughout that there might be something sinister in this rejection. The direct implication is given that Apple is rejecting this app for selfish, anti-competitive, and possibly even illegal reasons based on pretty much nothing at all.

    When it comes to publishing, Apple has blocked or rejected exactly *zero* competitors on the app store. They have in fact encouraged other companies to set up their own book stores on all their devices.

    Meanwhile, the more likely excuse for the rejection, (copyright policing and IP problems), is not even mentioned. WTF? I’d swear this was another Darrell article if it didn’t have Ryans name at the top.

  5. Apple’s App “approval” process is hilariously chaotic. Any VC looking to invest in a startup creating apps would do well to “encourage” their investment to dump Apple’s fading platform for a more open platform without arbitrary restrictions, like Android or BlackBerry, and leave the Apple product far down the development queue.

    1. So chaotic that they approve many hundreds of apps a day and, excluding apps that simply crash and shouldn’t be sold, reject at most a handful.

      And fading is apparently selling each quarter double-digit percent more new iOS devices than the previous quarter.

      Genius. Good luck with your Android and BlackBerry app investments. I’ve got a bridge in New York City for sale if you want something really lucrative.

      1. But Matthew, love is blind and lovers cannot see, get over it please. Yes Apple is great, but honestly… unfair and pretty evil.

      2. It has nothing to do with love, it’s all about money. Show me the companies who have made a million dollars from the Android Marketplace or BlackBerry App World. Show me one, even. How about those that made more than $100,000, would I need more than one hand to count them?

        Android and BlackBerry apps may have a future, but if you’re that VC investing today you’d be an idiot to pour money into a company that can’t provide any reason to believe there’s money to be made today or in the near future.

  6. Very interesting, none of the obvious reasons make since.

    Because it competes with an upcoming magazine store: Doesn’t make sense, like others have said, because they do allow competition in their bookstore and video store (isn’t Amazon VOD on iOS?). And those are bigger players than Issuu.

    Adult content: I guess this is possible, but seems unlikely. Issuu wouldn’t have to change their policies, they would just need to filter content that goes to the iOS app. They could still have adult content on the web and on Android devices. Maybe they decided to take a moral stand on this and not filter that content. While that’s possible, it does seem rather unlikely.

    The only reason I can see is that because Issuu allows some Creative Commons licensed content, and Apple historically favors DRMed content.

  7. Isn’t Zinio a Magazine newstand on iPad? Why are they approved then? Bogus claim by a sore loser.

    1. No, there are plenty of apps in the app store that are approved that offer the EXACT experience as those not approved simply because the rejected developers had a larger established presence. Take Google Voice as a perfect example of this. There were 2 EXACT google voice apps in the store for months before the official app from Google appeared. The official version was finally approved, and in my opinion offeres less features that the previous approved ones.

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