Jay Lauf is publisher of The Atlantic and he is frustrated by the lack of customer data Apple is willing to share with publishers on the iPad.
Writing on Minonline:
...with the recent confirmation that Apple is getting ready to launch the iTunes of newsstands, we could be on the verge of ceding our content and customers to them.
...What happens if an “iStand” supplants the newsstand in the way iTunes has supplanted the record store and it supplants our traditional means of driving subscriptions?
Currently it means the characteristics and locations of readers we’ve long had a direct relationship with, whom we know so much about—which allows us to provide them better content and more meaningful ways to engage while also allowing us to better service our advertisers—will be in the hands of Apple, not us.
He makes a very good point.
Moving to a digital business model is incredibly challenging for publishers of print publications. One of the advantages is that there is a tremendous amount of reader data that can be gathered, such as which sections are read the most; which ads are viewed; demographic data on readers, and much more, without needing to use expensive focus groups and surveys.
This type of customer data can be easily collected through publisher web sites but not when Apple is the publisher and hosts the content as an "app" on iTunes. Apple stands in the way of collecting that data.
This also means problems for online advertisers that try to target ads to readers. They can't follow readers across all of their reading content, as they can on the Internet. This is probably why Apple has been acquiring advertising companies since it will be the only game in town with that capability.
Mr Lauf adds:
There is a world in which the digitization of the magazine experience yields even more and better data and mechanisms for us to improve all these elements of our business—CRM, tailored offerings, circ metrics, more targeted advertising. That’s an inevitable world, really.
But if we need to pay or beg Apple for the privilege, it’s a world in which we’ll be wondering once again (think giving away content or erosion of the rate card): How’d we let that happen?
He says the industry needs "to act quickly."
If Apple won't share customer data then it must take an active role in marketing the publications to potential customers based on all the data that it has collected.
Potentially, this would be a greater service than providing small silos of customer data to publishers because Apple has the benefit of a global view of all its users.
Apple will still get its 30% cut and publishers will benefit from improved sales into targeted markets.
If not, then Apple needs to open up its iTunes customer data to all publishers: magazine, newspaper and apps so they can improve their marketing.
Hat tip: Paul Eric Davis (@pweck)