Washington Post Brings a Subscription Model to iPad... but How?

Last Updated Nov 10, 2010 12:04 PM EST

Phew. It looks like a subscription option might come to the iPad sooner rather than later -- one way or another. (More on that below.)

OK, it's not up there with the big problems in the universe, but it's good news that the Washington Post plans to start a subscription model for its iPad app starting in February, which will be 99 cents per month for current subscribers to the newspaper and $3.99 for those who don't subscribe. Until then, it's free. (WaPo vp-at-large Ben Bradlee is pictured clutching an iPad at right.)

Is this newsworthy? Sure -- if you've been following the peculiar relationship between the iPad and the print media, who are looking upon it as the answer to all of their problems. (OK, that was a bit of dramatic license.) The problem is that publishers, like the music industry before them, have been wary of Apple's desire to hold onto consumer data it collects through the iTunes store -- and at least as things stand now, publishers feel that if they did sell subscriptions over iTunes, they would be giving Apple the keys to the subscription candy store.

So, here's the weird thing: it's not exactly clear how the WaPo is pursuing its subscription option. Is it letting Apple hold onto data? Is it in on an iPad subscription model beta that other publishers don't know about? It's seems more likely that it's done a work-around, as People magazine did when it made its iPad app free to current subscribers, so they wouldn't have to pay a (hefty) per issue price.

In that instance, People used its own interface to let print subscribers verify their subscription. I'm speculating here, but, presumably, the Post could do something similar, only this time, it would be charging -- adding the iPad subscription to a subscribers' print bill, and billing iPad-only subscriptions through other means. But how would such a thing work out with Apple? If you know, let us know.

(If you want to see the truly awful ad the newspaper produced to promote the app -- featuring Bradlee and a seemingly calcified Bob Woodward -- see below.)


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