Magazine rivals to join forces for iTunes-like magazine stand

After writing about how newspapers seem hellbent to act like a bunch of lemmings headed over a cliff under the rallying cry of Rupert Murdoch it is almost a pleasure to write about a bunch of magazine competitors who seem to have finally caught on to how they might be able to succeed as their world changes around them.

As much as the newspaper industry might be facing some hard times the road forward has to be doubly hard for those publishing magazines. Where newspapers can at least fall back on the old mantra of printing the news as it happens magazine have always be thought of as the more of a monthly collection of long prose and glossy pictures. All of which is really hard to market in the Internet age – especially one crawling headlong into the real-time web.

Where they have funnily enough stood a chance of surviving in my opinion is in the growing mobile space where if done right their presentation is suited to the small viewing area fond on smartphones. The two big problems though are that people are increasingly use to a one-stop shopping experience ala iTunes and the App Store and aren’t inclined to go running about the web and paying piecemeal for content. The other problem is much more basic – people want everything for free especially when it comes to news.

With that in mind Time Inc., Conde Nast and Hearst have agreed to come together under the banner of a new company that will provide a unified web store where readers will be able to buy any one of the 50 magazines that the various partners publish.

Each magazine publisher now believes it’s too risky to go it alone to find new ways to get consumers to pay. If they all join together, the reasoning goes, they stand a better chance of producing greater revenue.

The deal is taking time to complete because it involves so many moving pieces.

“It’s pretty complicated stuff,” said a source. “The really, really hard part is that you’ve got so many different kinds of devices running on different operating systems. And how do you handle that? The consortium provides one point of contact for the consumer. When you come to the main store, you can get the content any way you want.”

Source: The Observer

Now as Frederic Lardinois at ReadWriteWeb noted

Most importantly, these companies will also have to reinvent their magazines for the digital age along the lines of Wired’s app for the rumored Apple Tablet or Condé Nast’s iPhone version of GQ (iTunes link). One of the reasons these publications are suffering is the long lead time that makes most of the content outdated by the time it arrives at the printer. While this still works for magazines like the Atlantic, which mostly publishes in-depth long form articles that aren’t time-sensitive, gossip magazines can’t really compete with TMZ or Perez Hilton. Just putting a digital copy of their magazines online simply won’t cut it.

He’s absolutely right – just unifying what they are already doing on the web under one umbrella and expecting people to be willing to pay for it based on that alone will only guarantee that the project will fail.

If they do manage to come up with unique content available via the store alone in order to add some extra value people are willing to pay for then yes I think this is a viable idea that could work out very well.

Too bad Murdoch doesn’t try forward thinking ideas like this instead of beating his chest against the big bully called Google.