New digital magazine consortium causes consternation

A joint venture of five publishing behemoths says it's going to be the go-to guys for digital magazines. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers wonder how it's going to work (or even if it'll work).

By Richi Jennings. December 9, 2009.


Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention I'm a Mac, and...

    Peter Kafka told you so:

The magazine industry is finally ready to announce that it is forming a joint venture to distribute and sell digital versions of its products. ... The story is more or less the one I’ve been telling you about for a couple months. ... Time Inc ... Condé Nast, Meredith, Hearst and News Corp. will be equity partners. ... All of this is conceptual at this stage; the companies now need to go about the business of actually assembling technology.


Like Hulu, this is a joint venture of content owners that is designed to control distribution and sale of their product instead of ceding that to digital powerhouses like Apple and Amazon. ... Publishing executives I’ve talked think that Apple may end up being receptive to the idea, but Amazon is clearly going to be a problem.

Staci D. Kramer adds her $0.02:

The five publishers are equity partners in a new digital publishing venture with grand designs. ... Together, the company says the five represent an unduplicated audience of 144.6 million. ... The effort came together over the past four months. ... John Squires, the interim managing director ... has been in the mix all along and is now one of the candidates for CEO of the nameless venture.


The venture has four key goals initially:

  • 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. ...
  • Work with advertisers to co-develop new advertising forms that Squires expects will be more immersive.

What's the Apple angle, Eric Slivka?

Rumors of collaboration among major magazine publishers looking to prepare for Apple's much-rumored entrance into the tablet market have been circulating in recent months, with word of the specific joint venture appearing late last month.


With a growing number of devices capable of accessing media content, from the iPhone and other smartphones to dedicated e-readers to Apple's forthcoming tablet, publishers have recognized the potential for new revenue streams as well as the need to streamline the process for offering content for this wide variety of devices.

What do you have to say to that, Jonny Evans?

The battle for the future of publishing is on once again. ... The five big publishing names are inviting others to join their new publishing age party, with publishers making their money from associated ad sales and print subscriptions, along with digital sales.


By the end of 2010, Forrester Research estimates that 10 million e-readers will be sold in the U.S., and according to m:Metrics (comScore), there will be over 50 million smartphones in the U.S. by the end of 2010. How many of these will be Apple tablets, we wonder??

Meanwhile, Rex Hammock anticipates "a long, slogging, trench war":

There are already massive digital newsstands. While you may know the iTunes Store for delivering video or audio files or “apps” ... it has long been capable of delivering digital books and magazines. ... Buying digital magazines or books are nothing new. ... So what is? One thing: The notion (hope) that “digital magazines” (which are, in essence, souped-up and “rich-media” enhanced PDFs) have enough perceived value by consumers to be worth “paying for.”


To succeed in this arena, publishers also have to convince the audience that the value of the content is roughly equivalent to the value of a paper magazine without the cost of paper and distribution. ... A much more daunting challenge than merely agreeing upon standards and setting up a joint-venture digital newsstand.

Hey, Hamilton Nolan? Any chance you could write something snarky?

The new iTunes for magazines (or an irrelevant venture) is here! ... Buy it and put it on your E-reader! Are you sick of E-readers yet? You will be!


How much would you pay to read Sports Illustrated on your E-reader right now? You don't have an E-reader. And you can read Deadspin for free. So, you'd pay nothing. Changing that dynamic is what media companies need to worry about.


So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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