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POLISHING AN APPLE: Hearst has struck a deal with Apple that will make it the first big magazine publisher to sell subscriptions for its digital editions on the iPad. A Hearst spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday that the publisher will sell iPad subscriptions for Esquire, Popular Mechanics and O, The Oprah Magazine through the iTunes store starting next month with the title’s July issues. The subscriptions will cost $19.99 a year, or $1.99 a month.
It’s a big breakthrough. For the last year, magazine publishers have been pushing hard to get a subscription deal done with Apple, but to no avail. In mid-March, Condé Nast director of editorial operations Rick Levine seemed to express the industry’s frustration when he said, “We frankly don’t want Apple to have a stranglehold on this business.”
Apple wants a 30 percent cut of any subscription sale completed in the iTunes store, and it also has the keys to consumer data. Publishers have said over the last few months that there won’t be any real money made in the digital magazine business until subscriptions roll out so they can get their hands on that data.
And how did Hearst fare in this deal?
“I can’t discuss the terms, obviously,” said the Hearst spokeswoman. “But it’s not their standard deal. It’s fundamentally different than any other deal they’ve offered or struck. We came to an equitable and fair agreement to owning customers together.”
She declined to elaborate.
The spokeswoman said the deal goes beyond magazines. Hearst’s newspapers — such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle — also will have subscription agreements for iPad editions in the next two to three months. Likewise, Hearst’s TV properties will be included, though she wouldn’t be more specific. The Wall Street Journal reported the news first Wednesday on its Web site.
With Hearst now officially in bed with Apple, this raises the stakes for Condé Nast and Time Inc. to get a deal done. Single-copy sales for digital editions continue to sell poorly, though earlier this week, Time Inc. came to an agreement with Apple to allow print subscribers to get its iPad editions for free.
— JOHN KOBLIN