It doesn't take a particularly creative publishing executive to imagine a big opportunity in the new iPhone software Apple showed off today.
First, Apple said it was upgrading iTunes to allow movie rentals and the purchase of TV shows on the mobile device, just like on desktop versions of iTunes.
Potentially more promising for the print media is the newly-added ability to purchase content from within iPhone applications. A startup called Scrollmotion demonstrated from Apple's stage its forthcoming reader software and boasted it would offer 50 major magazines, 170 daily newspapers and 1 million books. Esquire, ESPN and Bon Appetit were pictured inside the app.
Magazine and newspaper publishers might prefer to put together their own iPhone store, just as the TV studios set up the video-sharing site Hulu. Apple's terms would let them keep 70 percent of the sale price of their content — a pretty good deal in comparison to selling content on the Kindle, where Amazon and its wireless carrier reportedly keep close to 70 percent of the money.
The real question, though, isn't the mechanics of selling content on an iPhone app, but how publishers will get people to buy content often available free a couple of clicks away, on the Web, where it often includes goodies like links, comments and video that actually make it better than the printed product.