iNewspaper: The next iPad service?

Apple is reportedly working on a service modeled after iTunes with revenue-sharing for digital subscriptions

Apple is reportedly working on a new application for the iPad that will allow users to download electronic versions of newspapers. It could be ready within a couple of months, but will likely be held until the release of the next-generation iPad.

The app, rumored to be called iNewspaper, is expected to be similar to Apple's electronic bookstore, iBooks. As usual, the information comes from industry sources. It sounds like Apple plans to help publishers sell subscriptions, rather than single issues.

In addition to recreating digital versions of newspapers and magazines, the app could make it possible to integrate web features -- such as video, audio or hyperlinks -- directly into the publication. (Sounds a little like The Daily Prophet newspaper from the world of Harry Potter.)

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple and publishing companies are hung up in talks about revenue sharing, pricing, and subscriber data. Among the companies said to be in those talks is Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which has expressed interest in a digital newspaper on the iPad.

Of course, a number of newspapers and magazines already offer iPad-specific versions through their own apps. The New York Times was early to produce an Android app as well.

As someone who works at a daily newspaper and has dabbled in online journalism, I can see true potential in Apple's reported app.

The iPad has been a huge success for Apple. Forecasts say it will sell 11 million units by the end of the year. Making a newspaper or magazine available to those 11 million users couldn't hurt -- even if you only capture a fraction of that audience.

The problem will be convincing publishers to share part of their subscription revenue with middleman Apple. As analyst Ken Doctor told Bloomberg, "Apple is trying to insert itself as a middleman that doesn't exist in other industries . . . Sony doesn't demand a cut of the revenue from television shows on its TV sets." But as the publishing world is learning, the digital model is different.

I'd say sharing money is better than not making it at all.

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