Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Big 5 U.S. mag companies partner in digital publishing venture: potential 145 million readers

Recent talk about a digital newsstand involving the biggest magazine players in the U.S. has taken an action turn. Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith (NYSE: MDP), News Corp (NYSE: NWS). and Time Inc. have announced that they are now equity partners in a new digital publishing venture. This has variously been described, including as a "Hulu for magazines"According to a story in paidContent.org,
They want nothing less than to develop open standards for cross-platform e-reader technology, advertising and digital sales—and they’re going to put their brands behind it. Together, the company says the five represent an unduplicated audience of 144.6 million.
There is no name for the new venture, which is shopping for a Manhattan office and is starting to hire for a staff of undetermined size. The amount of investment has not been made known.

John Squires, a senior Time Inc. executive is interim managing director. The equity partners will apparently welcome other players to join in, depending on what publications and products they have to offer. And Hearst and News Corp. are continuing on with developing their own, similar digital newsstand projects (Hearst's Skiff for instance).
The four key goals of the new venture are:
  • Be ready for full-color devices with an application that renders publications “in beautiful form” and in “recognizable” form.
  • Develop a platform that can enable that across multiple devices, operating systems and screens.
  • Develop a common digital storefront where consumers can easily make purchases and get universal access on any device as they buy digital products from their publisher.
  • Work with advertisers to co-develop new advertising forms that Squires expects will be more immersive with the power of digital delivery. “This has the potential to be a new and vastly important branding medium for advertisers, particularly with larger screen devices.”
There is a similar, smaller but equally ambitious venture already up and running in Canada  -- Magazines Canada's digital newstand in collaboration with Zinio. In that case, it is mostly about selling subs and single copies in digital or "flip book" format, although there is discussion about extending the idea to the kind of cross-platform delivery that the unnamed U.S. venture is contemplating.

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