Apple softening on iPad subscriptions as Time inks print access deal?

Apple's attitude toward digital magazine subscriptions on the iPad and other iOS devices seems to have softened, with reports that publisher Time Inc. has secured a deal that will bundle free iPad access to print subscribers. As of today, the WSJ reports, those with print subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune will all be able to log into the iPad app versions of those magazines using their existing subscriber details. Previously, Apple refused to allow iPad access to be bundled with print subscriptions.

The exact nature of Time's deal with Apple is unclear, and it's not known what concessions either party has made, nor indeed whether this will mark a general easing of subscription attitudes with other publishers. Apple originally billed the subscription push as a matter of fairness, wanting a slice of the payment pie for content managed through the App Store.

Publishers, however, argued that Apple was taking an undue amount from their already tight margins, making the process too complex for subscribers, and were refusing to open up valuable subscriber data. Apple offers name, email and ZIP code as long as the reader has given permission, demographics which Time and others have complained is insufficient for the sort of targeted advertising and other promotions they would like to do.

Time's new arrangement is unlikely to have addressed that data hurdle – the print subscribers now logging in free to the digital magazine apps have already given their information to the publisher after all – but it seems likely that some sort of revenue sharing agreement has been inked, with Apple getting a cut of what Time makes from repeat readers.