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Publishers: Tablet Business Is Picking Up

At a panel at the American Magazine Conference, executives from Condé Nast and Hearst said that drawing $10 million in revenue from the tablets isn’t far off.

TABLET TALK: All these months later, with some decent subscription numbers and a possible antidote to the iPad in the Kindle Fire, publishers are beginning to find a business out of tablets. On a panel Tuesday morning at the American Magazine Conference at the Grand Hyatt, executives from Condé Nast and Hearst said that drawing $10 million in revenue from the tablets isn’t far off.

“We’ll be there from Day One,” said Hearst Magazines president David Carey proudly, referring to the Kindle Fire. “If you told me two years ago that we would have a chance of more than $10 million of consumer revenue from digital, we didn’t think it would be possible. That’s going to happen before you know it.”

When exactly will that happen?

Carey told WWD that Hearst “should” reach the $10 million mark in e-subscriptions by summer 2012. He referred to the Kindle Fire announcement as being “absolutely critical.”

Last week, Hearst said it had 300,000 paid digital downloads a month. On Tuesday morning, Carey said that “that number is going to double for us in short order.”

How soon?

“It will depend in large part on Kindle Fire and Nook Color sales during the holiday season,” he said in an e-mail after the panel discussion. “A good number of devices sold will directly impact us, starting in January.”

Further, when Apple’s iOS 5 system debuts next week, publishers hope that the Newsstand app will provide a bigger boost to single-copy sales and subscriptions, by providing an easier way to search for titles and organize them. Carey praised Hearst’s approach to arriving early to any or all platforms — the Nook Color, the iPad, Kindle Fire or Zinio. He also said that even though the industry has focused a lot of attention on the iPad, the “Nook Color was a fantastic opportunity for us.”

It’s not just Hearst, either.

“We have a $15 million business that came out of nothing, that didn’t exist a year ago,” said Condé Nast president Bob Sauerberg.

A Condé Nast spokeswoman said that the $15 million figure is “projected tablet revenue for the end of this calendar year” for Condé Nast, which she said includes revenue from subscriptions and advertising. Unlike Hearst, Condé Nast is offering digital and print bundles, so subscription revenue generated in that $15 million is not e-subscription exclusively.

Meanwhile, the other member of the panel, Meredith president Tom Harty didn’t have any eight-figure numbers to share since “we don’t have a lot of consumers going out and buying $700 iPads at this point, so we’re learning a lot from our friends to the left and the right of us. The numbers are still very small, so it’s hard for us to draw a conclusion where we’re trying to build a long-term business model,” he admitted.

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