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DIGITAL NEWSSTAND BOOTS UP: Whispers about several publishers teaming up to launch a digital newsstand have swirled for weeks, but on Tuesday, five publishers went public with news of their intent to launch a digital storefront for magazines, newspapers and other media. Hearst Magazines, Condé Nast Publications Inc., Meredith Corp., Time Inc. and News Corp. have formed a separate entity helmed by John Squires, a former executive vice president at Time Inc. Squires left Time a few months ago to serve as interim managing director of this yet unnamed company.
The goal is to create a standard format for all content that can be applied to e-readers, mobile devices and computers, no matter who the manufacturer, and create a storefront similar to iTunes where consumers can purchase a library of titles. The participants will also work with advertisers to create ads that work on this platform, which can take advantage of video and networking capabilities. Eventually, the platform will sell content from any participating content provider, be it comic books, photo books or even blogs.
The initiative is still in its infancy — Squires would not release details on a pricing structure, a date next year when the storefront would be available to the public or which hardware developers, software makers or executives would be brought on board to build the platform. All he would confirm is that the platform will roll out sometime next year, and that publishers will be able to make money both from single-copy and subscription sales and advertising. “The individual publishers will have great commercial terms. This is an enabling company, one that provides rich returns from everyone in it. The publishers will have many ways to make money that we think they’ll be happy with,” he said. Squires said the first focus would be creating content for smartphones, as several magazines, including Sports Illustrated, Wired and GQ, have already done.
Though pressure has been on publishers to create new businesses as declines in advertising and subscription revenue have crunched profits, Squires said the platform would not serve as the New World Order for magazines. “We don’t think we’re going to replace magazines and newspapers, but there will be some consumers who decide the digital experience is good enough that it’s their preferred method of delivery,” said Squires.
One thing that Squires said would be an unlikely product is individual articles, instead saying archives and bundled content around a subject matter, location or hobby would be better offerings on the service. — Stephanie D. Smith