|The U.S. publishing industry's digital newsstand, which has been in the works for two years, is finally up and running. Next Issue Media, a joint venture of Time Inc., Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith, and News Corp., unveiled a "preview" of its digital store this week.
But don't get too excited. Only seven titles are available (Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Time, Fitness, Parents, and The New Yorker), and they're only accessible on Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab from Verizon Wireless.
While this sounds like it's far from the all-encompassing storefront its founders originally planned, Next Issue CEO Morgan Guenther said it's a test-and-learn period to gauge consumer response and tinker with the format. More devices and screen sizes are supposed to be added over the summer. In the fourth quarter, Next Issue plans to have a fuller rollout, with around 50 titles available on six to eight different types of devices. The full integrated newsstand is intended to use a single technology platform that will provide for a uniform user experience. There will be features that give users the ability to search content across titles and share articles. By the end of 2012, Next Issue's goal is to expand that list of 50 to 200-300 titles, including newspapers.
Next Issue started on the hope that by banding together to sell digital content, publishers, not the device-makers, would control their digital futures and start to make up for waning print ad revenue. But its members, eager to benefit from the iPad's continued popularity, have largely gone their own way. In recent weeks, Time, Hearst, and Condé signed their own subscription sales deals with Apple.
Guenther doesn't deny the software giant's dominance. "Apple devices are fantastic," he said during a whirlwind press and agency tour to preview the Galaxy newsstand. "They're going to be a major player. But we just think the ecosystem is going to get much larger. We think there are going to be multiple platforms that are important."
It may take longer than expected, though. When the Galaxy reportedly reached a respectable 2 million in sales early this year, that was still a fraction of the 14.8 million iPads that Apple said it sold in 2010.