The FT dodges Apple’s subscription fee with new Web app for iOS devices

The FT dodges Apple’s subscription fee with new Web app for iOS devices

How do you get around Apple’s 30% cut on publication subscriptions for iOS? If you’re the UK’s Financial Times, you abandon your native app and switch instead to a paid-for Web app.

Optimised for iOS devices, the new site is being sold on the benefits of the Web over apps – no need to download anything and instant updates when new features are rolled out. It also stores the latest edition of the app for offline reading. All existing iOS app users are being encouraged to switch to the Web version as soon as possible, as the original app will no longer be updated with new features (although it will continue to work).

The Web app will be bolstered with additional content over time, including blogs, special reports and illustrative graphics. A new ‘Clippings’ service allowing users to store articles for late reading is also in the works. The Web app will also be updated to support other devices, including Android tablets and the BlackBerry Playbook.

The Financial Times’ app has long featured on Apple’s demo units of iOS devices in its Stores in the UK as a prime example of one of the great apps available for its mobile OS. So, we doubt the boys and girls in Cupertino will be too pleased about a premium brand like the FT shunning their ecosystem for the open world of the Web, where there’s no hope of grabbing that 30% cut from each subscription.

The timing of the FT’s move, just weeks before the June 30 deadline for iOS apps to adopt in-app subscriptions, is interesting. If the FT and its publisher, Pearson can make this work, will we see other titles jump from the App Store to a potentially more profitable mobile-optimised, paywalled experience? It must surely be very tempting. The main factor holding many back is likely to be the easy ‘discoverability’ of an App Store presence. Is it really worth 30% of subscription fees though?

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