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How to bypass Apple’s 30 percent commission in digital publishing

This is a question I get all the time, and it is possible, let me explain your options.

app_store_shareFirstly, let me just say that Apple (and Google) has created an ecosystem that enables you to distribute your content onto tablet and mobile devices so they deserve to get a commission for creating the community and distributing your publications.

Having said that, here are some ideas to help you pay the least amount possible.
Of course the best way to avoid paying Apple or Google anything is to use HTML or a web app instead of a native Apple or Google app for your digital publication. But there are compelling reasons to create apps, so this discussion will focus on apps.

The first and most obvious choice is to make your content free! In an advertiser funded model, there is no reason to charge for your digital publications, so there is no commission to pay. If you are committed to a subscriber revenue model then read on.

One of the drawbacks of Apples App store as a publisher is that you don’t know who is subscribing to your content. Whilst there are a few convoluted ways to obtain this information it is not as forthcoming as it should be. And whilst subscription revenue is good, knowing who your subscribers are and having direct communication channel to them is even better. Also, when a subscriber purchases your content on a particular device they are generally locked into reading on that device.

One of the easiest ways to avoid paying any commission at all is to sell the subscription directly to your subscribers. In this scenario a subscriber creates an account with you the publisher and purchases a subscription from your website. This has a number of benefits for both you and the subscriber:

  • You keep all the revenue.
  • The subscriber can logon anywhere on any device and read their content.
  • You know who your subscribers are and you build your subscriber database.

To implement this, you simply need the ability for a subscriber to login to read your publication instead of having to purchase ‘in-app’. This same mechanism could allow your print subscribers to access a digital version on their device – a great way for you to encourage print subscribers.

There are some restrictions, however, and the rules could have changed again by the time I publish this, but understandably you cannot just have a big button in your app that says ‘click here to subscribe’ which takes you to an external subscription page. You can, though, mention within your app that external subscription is available, as long as you offer in-app purchase as well. You will get a percentage of people going outside the app to subscribe if the benefits are worthwhile (such as access online as well as app, print subscriptions, free gifts etc).

So there are ways to avoid paying any commission or at least reducing the amount you pay, by offering free content and by offering an external method of subscribing outside of your app.

If your app doesn’t offer a login option, or you are interested in digital publishing, you can read more at our blog,

Have you had experience in bypassing Apple’s commission or have a success story about selling through the app stores? Tell us your experiences.