The New iTunes for Magazines (Or an Irrelevant Venture) Is Here!

Today, four prestigious magazine publishers, and News Corp, officially announced their new "digital storefront" for magazines and stuff. Buy it and put it on your E-reader! Are you sick of E-readers yet? You will be! And you'll be using one.

Today's initiative has been variously billed as "iTunes for Magazines" (correct philosophically, but wildly overstated) and "Hulu for Magazines" (incorrect, since Hulu is free). Basically you can now go to this digital storefront and buy all your favorite Conde Nast, Meredith, Hearst, Time Inc., and News Corp publications, to read on your "portable digital device" of choice. Your crappy mobile phone, or iPhone, or upcoming Apple tablet, or, hey, Time Inc. is making its very own tablet, & ad infinitum.

And, of course, this is not the only "digital storefront" thing—Hearst, a partner in this venture, is also going forward with its own personal digital storefront called Skiff , and there are similar services already operating, although, hey, there's not dominant iTunes-type player yet, so you never know.

This could be a successful venture. Then again, it could fade into irrelevance in months. Somebody will make the dominant digital storefront for content like this, just like someone will make the dominant digital reader. Magazine publishing companies, one would think, are likely to get smoked by someone like Apple in this particular sector. But they think it's worth the gamble, after watching what happened to the music industry.

But it'll take a few years. 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.

And here's Time Inc's announcement to employees, just because we have it:

December 8, 2009
To: Time Inc. Employees
From: Ann Moore
Re: New Digital Venture

Today, five leading publishers including Time Inc., Conde Nast, Meredith, Hearst and News Corporation announced the formation of a new venture to develop a digital storefront and a common reading application that will allow consumers to enjoy their favorite magazine and newspaper content on any platform they choose.

We already know that the next generation of mobile devices will be loaded with color touchscreens, flexible displays, video capabilities and other features that will make them ideal for consuming rich content and an appealing environment for advertisers. These devices will allow us to combine the best of what consumers love about magazines – quality, curated journalism, engaging content and beautiful photography – with the speed, convenience and portability of the latest technology.

While Time Inc. is pursuing a number of initiatives that will help us expand our current digital businesses and develop new products and revenue streams, our participation in this venture is an important part of our efforts. You'll be hearing more about it in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, for a look at some of the work Time Inc. is doing around portable devices, check out the demo Sports Illustrated developed, which will give you an idea of how our digital content might be enjoyed in the near future.

www.si.com/tablet

A.M.