Can the magazine publishing industry be led from the wilderness by the big guys or is this new effort simply an attempt to keep the "leaders" in front, and to keep others out?
That is one of the questions on my mind when reviewing today's announcement by the new publishing consortium announced by News Corp., and Hearst. If you didn't read the announcement here it is with an excerpt below the fold:
LEADING PUBLISHERS FORM VENTURE TO OFFER CONSUMERS NEW DIGITAL STOREFRONT AND PORTABLE READING EXPERIENCE
Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc. today jointly announced that they have entered into an independent venture to develop open standards for a new digital storefront and related technology that will allow consumers to enjoy their favorite media content on portable digital devices.
The goal of this digital initiative is fourfold, to create: a highly featured common reading application capable of rendering the distinctive look and feel of each publication; a robust publishing platform optimized for multiple devices, operating systems and screen sizes; a consumer storefront offering an extensive selection of reading options; and a rich array of innovative advertising opportunities.
Beyond the publications of the equity partners, the venture will welcome other publishers to offer their content via this new digital platform. Publishers will derive revenue from content and advertising sales, as well as from print subscriptions.
This answers quite a number of questions I would naturally have including the big one -- will other publishers be allowed to use the "store" or will it be the sole possession of the consortium members?
The Apple iTunes app store demonstrates the value of an open source initiative. But Apple is still the gatekeeper. With the music store, Apple is less of a gatekeeper. But in both cases Apple gets the benefits of the profits through distribution (though it is said that Apple basically breaks even on its music sales, but rakes it in on iPod sales).
But the fourth item listed in the goals may be the most interesting one: the store front. Will the new consortium be the owner of the storefront? It sounds that way.
If so, I think these publishers may find that there is more money to be made being the gatekeeper to the magazine world than there ever was being the publisher. This may also show that the true motivation for this initiative was less to find a solution for print magazines, and more an attempt to head off any efforts by Apple or Google or Amazon to become the default marketplace for digital magazines.
Here is a round up of some of the other stories today on the announcement:
WSJ: Media Firms to Unveil Joint Venture for Digital Devices
New York Times: Five Major Magazine and Newspaper Publishers Unveil Their Digital Newsstand
Apple Insider: Major print publishers confirm collaborative digital store