The problem with Apple’s auto-renewable subscriptions

Marco Arment, founder of Instapaper and Tumblr, has written an excellent article about the shortcomings of iOS’s auto-renewable subscriptions, and the problem it creates for web services.

Marco Arment, from

I was told via phone about an apparently unwritten rule that I was violating: auto-renewing subscriptions can only be used for apps that deliver “new content” during each renewal period, like magazines. Charging a monthly price for an ongoing service is not allowed.

It seems like Apple’s attempts at creating solutions to particular problems have created some problems of its own. By looking to solve the publishing conundrum that major publishers were having with customers looking to subscribe to digital magazines and newspapers Apple missed an opportunity to provide web services with the ability to also implement auto-renewing payments.

Is there a difference between traditional old-form publishers, and a modern publishing application like Instapaper? I mean, outside of being user generated, the content in someone’s Instapaper queue is ever changing, day-to-day, month-to-month. Surely that would qualify as “new content” based on Apple’s explanation above.

There’s an argument to be made about web-services versus content creators, but let’s be real here, it’s 2012, and the definition of publisher is blurring so much that it’s getting harder to define what a publication is, what a journalist is, and more importantly what news is today.

Apple missed an opportunity to make life easier for its fans, customers, and developers.

Read The limited world of auto-renewable subscriptions on

Joshua is the Content Marketing Manager at BuySellAds. He’s also the founder of And since all that doesn’t quite give him enough content to wrangle, he’s also a technology journalist in his spare time, with bylines at PCWorld, Macworld… Full Bio