Oliver Reichenstein, writing on the iA blog:
Ads are digital goods. What else are ads? Spiritual goods? They are the digital good. They are what is driving the digital economy in the first place! And, yes, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on do have direct transactions built into the apps. And, no, they do not pay any fees to Apple for these in-app transactions.
Apple keeps repeating that the rules are the same for all, but they are not. The top ten apps do sell digital goods and only two of the top ten apps pay Apple. Netflix and Amazon. Netflix and Amazon have found a backdoor to avoid the 30% tax. One difference between the big apps and those who pay Apple is that they charge consumers. The top 5 apps are ad-based, feed on our privacy, and charge companies for it. You may have noticed that the big ones who are charged, companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify also happen to be direct competitors of Apple.
Apple also has a small ads business with the App Store, thereby kind-of-sort-of competing with Google — but point taken.
This is not in strict opposition to the App Store guidelines. Buying ads does not “unlock features or functionality within [an] app” any more than, say, using a banking app to send or receive money. Neither uses in-app purchases because it would not make sense. But that is an awful thin line that, as Reichenstein writes, benefits ad-supported anti-privacy apps over those that have a one-time or monthly cost.