The visibility of Newsstand, a special folder within iOS 5 for accessing and managing subscriptions to publications, has led to success for at least some publishers, and TRVL wanted in on it. The problem? The Dutch startup wants its app to remain free and Apple’s demand of a 30% cut from Newsstand subscriptions means that it’s compulsory to charge a fee. (UPDATE: see below).
TRVL’s solution is to donate its Newsstand revenue to charity. Charging a nominal $0.99 per month, the startup will donate its share of the fee to one of six charities, selectable by the user. Warchild, WWF, Amnesty, the Red Cross, Kiva and WSPA donations are all supported.
TRVL will continue to offer its app for free on the App Store, but a charitable donation model was the only way it could get the extra audience reach of Newsstand. As we recently reported, it recently launched its first premium in-app purchase content. More of these are on the way in addition to the free articles. It is also exploring options such as sponsorship and tasteful advertising to monetize resolutely free core product.
It seems unlikely that Apple will object to TRVL’s rule-bending, as it still gets its 30% fee from subscription payments. This also offers a way for other publishers to get ‘free’ apps into Newsstand – if their readers are happy giving a small payment to charity each month.
UPDATE: TRVL has clarified the situation regarding Newsstand subscriptions. Apple itself allows free Newsstand subscriptions, but the Adobe-affiliated Woodwing software used by TRVL does not, hence TRVL’s need for creativity to get onto Newsstand. TRVL believes it is still ‘bending the rules’ however. Full quote below:
Our software supplier Woodwing does NOT support a free subscription. It does, however, support a paid subscription. Newsstand requires you to offer a subscription. Therefore, we could only enter Newsstand with a paid subscription.
Since the start of our venture we have been tossed around by either Apple or Woodwing, and we have been completely left at their mercy, causing us to drop our ambitions in a big way. Us trying to get on Newsstand is yet another example, forcing us to do something very strange: offering a paid subscription.
So the story we wanted to tell is how you need to be creative as a cash-poor App to survive in the Wild West stage of tablet publishing.
I think your headline, about bending the Newsstand rules, still holds, because officially you are not supposed to donate money through charity.