Apple may be preparing a subscription plan for newspapers says the Mercury News. When iBooks was announced alongside iPad, but no similar offering for magazines and newspapers, it was curious. When friction resulted from magazines trying to roll their own subscriptions, it was noteworthy. Now, however, a solution might just be in place:

What makes this so much more complicated than apps or books is that newspaper and magazines aren't just after subscriber money, they want subscriber data. Their business is as much about who subscribes as how much. Apple is much the same, which is why they often talk about how many credit cards they have on file for iTunes accounts. There's gold in that data, in being able to segment and slice and dice it, aggregate and market on it. Media doesn't want to lose their subscribers to Apple and Apple doesn't want to lose their buyers to media. So how will they resolve this?

The Cupertino company has agreed to provide an opt-in function for subscribers to allow Apple to share with publishers their information, which includes vital data that news organizations use to attract advertisers, industry sources say.

It's not a done deal and it could get ugly. It's not how media is used to doing business, but then again this is a brave new world of online, app-centric business. Ironically, iTunes rise has disintermediated the traditional media middlemen, yet it's introducing Apple itself as a new, digital middleman.

That's it's opt-in for subscribers is good. Typically when you subscribe to a print edition, you're automatically opted-in.

What would you prefer, dozens of independent media apps with different accounts and methods of handling subscriptions, like the current print model, or a single solution tied to iTunes to handle all the digital media you want?

[Mercury News]