June 8, 2011
Financial Times, London's internationally-published business newspaper, has decided not to provide continued support for its iDevice offerings after Apple's June 30 subscription policy deadline. Instead, the organization has chosen to develop an HTML 5-based web app, thereby attempting to save the 30 percent take Apple will be requiring for all iTunes-hosted periodical subscriptions. According to Jordan Golson's Mac Rumors post on the subject, Financial Times' browser-friendly effort
seems to be very similar to the current iOS App and thus may be able to provide a very similar experience without having to share revenue with Apple. The Financial Times' loyal readership is likely to follow the publication to its web app in significant numbers, meaning that the FT may not be missing out on much by bypassing iTunes.Unfortunately, while the web app and the iTunes app are similar in appearance and presentation, there are some distinct differences. Most noticeably, the web version is extremely jumpy and refreshes sporadically when swiping through sections or stories. For many users, this graphical "glitching" may be enough of a put-off to jump ship to the newspaper's main competitor, The New York Times (which has already agreed to Apple's terms). Additionally, much of the proper app's animated flair is lost in the HTML translation. Using the menu bar to switch categories, you won't get the satisfying shuffle of passing pages, nor will tab interaction trigger the familiar rushing text animations. Still, with a readership of over two million and almost 225,000 digital subscribers, the Financial Times web app has a great shot at success. Golson says about the company's decision:
As the first major publication to drop its iOS app over Apple's subscription guidelines, the FT might just encourage other publications to make the same move.However, the move could (in this case, ironically, and in others, expectedly) backfire. Linked from the cited Mac Rumors article, Ben Evans notes on his blog that
[t]he challenge for other publishers in following the FT is that by doing so, they gain 30% but lose frictionless installs from the app store and frictionless payment from iTunes. For the FT, with a dedicated readership willing to pay, it may be worth giving those things up in exchange for the ability to offer a true cross-platform experience. But if you're depending on impulse download, the tablet experience and the ease of payment to get people to pay for your product where they never paid before, paying Apple 30% of something may be better than keeping 100% of nothing.Since the Financial Times iTunes app is free for both iPad and iPhone, grab it before it's gone and compare it to the new web app here. Note: Financial Times remains in talks with Apple to negotiate an individualized plan to keep its iOS apps running, though no compromise has yet been accepted by either party.