This is part four of an ongoing, five-part series.
Part one, the introduction, is here.
Part two, about breaking up ad-tech companies, is
here. Part three, about banning surveillance ads, is
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010, he didnt just
usher in a new kind of computing device - the first mainstream
touchscreen tablet - he also promised a new model for
internet-based publishing: paid subscriptions.
Jobs railed against the world of advertising-supported web
publishing, correctly identifying it as the pretense for the
creation of a vast, dangerous unaccountable surveillance system
that the private sector would build, but which
cops and spies enjoyed unfettered, warrantless access
Jobs promised a better internet: he promised publishers
that if they expended the capital to build apps for his new
tablets, that he would free them from the increasingly concentrated
surveillance advertising sector. Instead of
paying for journalism with ads, Jobs promised that publishers would
be able to sign up subscribers whod pay cash money, breaking the
uneasy coalition between surveillance and journalism.
Publishers piled in, spending billions in aggregate to
fill Apples App Store with apps that let readers pay directly for
the news. Readers followed - not in the numbers that Jobs had
alluded to, and not for every publisher, but for many publishers,
apps were a lifeline.
Apples App Store started off with a pretty straightforward
proposition: when publishers sold an app to readers,
Apple would process the transaction and take a 30 percent
cut. After that, publishers could use any payment
processor they wanted - including Apple - to handle future
purchases, such as per-article fees, recurring subscriptions, or
But as the iPad - and other devices that tapped into the
App Store, the iPhone and iPod - grew in prominence and became more
structurally important to publishers businesses, Apple altered the