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Rumor: Apple Subscriptions to Digital Newspapers In-Bound

iPad newspaper

Is Apple about to re-jig the newspaper business and announce a subscription service for its iDevices? A hot new rumor suggests as much, and we almost believe it.

The Mercury News has a suggestion from undisclosed sources that Apple is soon to announce a subscription plan for newspaper digital editions courtesy of distribution deals with big-name publishers.

The iPad has been heralded as the savior or magically transformative power for any number of industries, but the publishing biz is probably the one that fits most easily into the imagination: Apple has, for example, helped transform the music industry into the digital music industry and its new tablet PC with a large screen and all of Apple's clever OS behind it (to enable interactivity and so on) would seem ideal. The newspaper industry, suffering a decline in readership thanks to the Internet and a reluctance to adopt, advance, and innovate, seems particularly ripe for iHelp.

According to the Mercury's sources, Apple will take the same cut it does from its app publishing venture inside iTunes: 30%. But it'll also have dibs on up to 40% of the revenues from in-e-paper adverts which, if true, could be an astonishingly rich revenue vein to tap (although it would appear to cede too much control to the computer firm from inside the traditionally stubborn news business). Apple's also reported to have built in an "opt-in" switch for subscribers so that they have more control over what personal data gets shared with the original publishers—handing over your data could result in more carefully tailored ads, but of course opens you up to further solicitations.

We're tempted to believe it, because it makes a good deal of sense and we know that news mogul Rupert Murdoch (of all people) has been recently making very public overtures to Apple and its iPad in particular. But the rumor should be taken with several pinches of salt, or perhaps a good handful or two. First, because there are numerous high-profile attempts by newspapers and magazines to build their own high-tech iOS-compatible apps: These entities have the advantage of offering paying clients a little something extra over and above the normal printed content, and the publisher has a high degree of control over both content and clients. For newspapers to consider a new route to publishing their content, that may potentially cannibalize their apps doesn't quite ring true at this early stage in the iPad story.

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