Magazine circulation continued to fall in the second half of 2009 from a year earlier, according to preliminary data from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, with Better Homes and Gardens eclipsing Reader’s Digest to be the most purchased magazine in the U.S. Better Homes, published by Meredith Corp. (MDP), saw its total paid and verified circulation fall just 0.5 percent to an average 7.6 million copies for the monthly. That compares with a 13 percent drop for Reader’s Digest to 7.1 million. Its parent, Reader’s Digest Association Inc., is about to emerge from bankruptcy protection. Among the nation’s most-sold magazines, TV Guide saw the biggest decline, with its average circulation sliding 26 percent to 2.4 million copies. Consumers are increasingly using programming guides on their set-top boxes. The publication was bought in late 2008 by private-equity company OpenGate Capital for USD 1. The biggest gainer amid popular titles was a 6.9 percent average increase for Conde Nast Publications Inc.’s Glamour to 2.5 million as it recorded an 11 percent jump in subscriptions.
Five major magazine and newspaper publishers announced plans on Tuesday to build an industry-standard platform to present their work on the Web, smartphones and electronic readers in a richer, more flexible and more lucrative form than is possible today. The consortium of Time Inc., Condé Nast, the Hearst Corporation, Meredith and the News Corporation does not lack for ambition, hoping to create software primarily for devices that do not yet exist — cellphones that are somewhat more advanced than anything now on the market, and e-readers far more sophisticated than today’s mostly static black-and-white devices. The unnamed venture, whose outlines were reported last month, was originally envisioned as being mostly about magazines, though John Squires, who will serve as interim general manager, says the final product will work for newspapers, books and other media, as well. He said that he could not offer a guess as to when the project would have a product, but that when sophisticated, full-color e-readers reach the market. Time Inc. has released a video giving some idea of what it has in mind — a full-color, touch-screen digital version Sports Illustrated that readers would find not only more attractive than what is now available on most mobile devices, but also vastly more interactive and adaptable to their tastes
A consortium of magazine publishers including Time Inc. and Condé Nast are plan to jointly build an online newsstand for publications in multiple digital formats, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The formation of a new company to run the online newsstand — sometimes characterized as an “iTunes for magazines” — may be announced in early December. Time, Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith all intend to be equity partners in the new company, although the deals have not yet been signed. In the face of slumping print circulations for many magazines, the publishing houses are eager to exert some control over digital readership, said people at the companies, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the plans. Some newspaper owners have also expressed interest in the joint venture. The new magazine company would, in theory, make it easy to buy print and electronic copies of publications like The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and Better Homes and Gardens from a single Web site. While mostly leaving the hardware to others, the alliance of competing publishers would develop software standards for magazine viewing on iPhones, BlackBerrys, e-book readers and other platforms, people with knowledge of the plans said
Time Inc is gathering U.S. magazine publishers to start a jointly run digital newsstand next year that would deliver their titles to mobile devices like increasingly popular electronic book readers.
Time Warner is leading the effort, and has approached other big U.S. magazine publishers including Conde Nast and Hearst Corp, a source with knowledge of the joint venture but no authorization to speak about it told Reuters.
Users of the service would get a digital newsstand where they could buy subscriptions, potentially by the month or year or in other forms, the source said.
The venture would let magazines that have been hurt by a sharp decline in advertising in revenue in recent years get their titles in front of people who increasingly are turning to devices like Amazon.com’s Kindle and Apple’s planned tablet device to read books, magazines and newspapers.
It also would charge readers for their content, something that newspaper and magazine publishers have found nearly impossible to do after more than a decade of being on the Web.
The stakes are high for publishers to find more ways to make money online. Print ad revenue is falling across their titles, forcing some to close and putting the long-term futures of others in doubt. Many reports have speculated that Time Warner could even sell its magazine division, though nothing is imminent, sources have previously told Reuters.
A formal announcement of the venture could come within a month, and the service is expected to launch sometime next year, the source said, adding that many financial details still must be worked out.
The idea originated under John Squires, a Time Inc executive who earlier this year was charged with coming up with ways to help Time Inc and its titles such as Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, People and Fortune make money online as the print business declines.
Parent company Time Warner has been trying to do this in other ways, including the ambitious effort with Comcast Corp to work on “TV Everywhere,” a program to extend cable programming to the Internet.
The idea bears some resemblance to the Hulu online TV project run by General Electric’s NBC-Universal, News Corp and Walt Disney’s ABC, as well as private equity company Providence Equity Partners.
Officials at the publishers were not immediately available for comment. The Media Memo and PaidContent.org blogs and the Financial Times newspaper reported the news earlier on Friday.
People already can use the Kindle to read periodicals, but many newspaper publishers do not like the arrangement because Amazon in many cases claims 70 percent of the revenue from those subscriptions.
The joint venture would let publishers set their own terms for dealing with their readers, increasing their leverage with device makers.
Time has held conversations with publishers, and the publishers in turn have had conversations with several device makers to see what kinds of technology would be most attractive for the publishers, the source said.
One important element, the source said, is finding ways to make the act of turning pages on an electronic device as easy as it is with paper. Another is finding ways to present photographs in ways that are as attractive as they appear in many glossy magazines. Yet another would be adding video.
It is unknown whether newspaper publishers would be involved. If they are not they bloody well should be – this might be the only way to get away for charging for online content without alienating the billion people who are currently online