Time Inc. (s twx) reached an agreement with Apple (s aapl) that allows U.S. subscribers of Time Inc. print edition magazines to get free access to digital versions on the iPad. That means instead of paying $4.99 per digital issue, as has been the case, both print and iPad issues will instead cost about $0.28 per month via print subscription.
The Wall Street Journal reported (s nws) Monday that the two companies finally reached an agreement after nearly a year of high-level meetings between Steve Jobs and publishers on the subject. Time Inc.’s People magazine had already offered free iPad editions to print subscribers, but it was the only one to do so. As of Monday, subscribers to Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Time will now also be able to authenticate their existing subscriptions via free iPad apps in order to gain full access to content. It’s a precedent-setting agreement that could pave the way for similar deals with other major publishers.
Apple was likely resistant to the idea for so long because it means subscription revenue will bypass the App Store altogether, and also because when subscribers sign up for the print edition, all personal info (name, address and credit card number) goes directly to the publisher, potentially to the detriment of a similar relationship forming between Apple and the individual. Under Apple’s own new in-app digital subscription terms, after all, it gets 30 percent of all revenue generated and has exclusive access to customer information, unless the subscriber decides to opt in and grant a publisher access, too.
Time Inc. had to give up something in exchange for this deal, and I’m willing to bet that we’ll see what it is come June 30. That’s the last possible day publishers have to include in-app subscriptions for their apps. All magazine and newspaper publishers, at least, who offer subscriptions outside of the app have to also offer subscriptions at the same rate using Apple’s in-app purchasing mechanism by that date. No doubt Time Inc. has agreed to begin offering in-app subscriptions on all its titles by that date in exchange for the print deal. That means that if you’re interested in subscribing, but couldn’t care less about the print edition, you should probably wait a couple of months and you’ll get the same deal as a digital exclusive.
Existing subscribers to Time publications are likely happy about this, but I’m curious: anyone out there who doesn’t currently subscribe to any of these titles tempted to do so now?