Peter Kafka

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Time Inc. Doubles Down on Tablets, Promises All Magazines on All Platforms by End of Year

Magazine publishers have veered back and forth on what tablets means for their business — Savior! Disappointment! Maybe sort of promising! — but here’s Time Inc. making another bet on the technology: The Time Warner publishing unit says that by the end of the year, all 21 of its titles will be available on just about every tablet platform.

What that means in practical terms:

  • Time Inc. currently supports tablet versions of its four highest-profile titles — Time, Sports Illustrated, People and Fortune — and will roll out another 17 versions for titles like InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and Real Simple.
  • All of the titles will be available via Apple’s iTunes, Google’s Android store, Hewlett-Packard’s new tablet platform and Next Issue Media, the “Hulu for Magazines” joint venture that Time Inc. spearheaded a couple years ago.
  • Time Inc. also highlights an agreement to sell digital subscriptions via Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and doesn’t mention Amazon in the release (below). But it’s a very safe bet that Time and other publishers will be supporting Amazon’s new tablet when it’s released this fall.
  • It’s much less likely that you’ll see the titles on Research In Motion/BlackBerry’s unloved PlayBook, which isn’t mentioned in the release.
  • Note that while the release mentions “digital subscriptions,” what that really means is “digital-only subscriptions available everywhere but iTunes.” Apple and Time Inc. still haven’t come to terms on subscription rules, so right now the only way to get a digital subscription for the iPad is to buy a subscription package that also includes print.

Expect to hear Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes say a bit more about this during his earnings call this morning. Here’s the press release:

TIME INC. TO LAUNCH TABLET EDITIONS FOR ITS ENTIRE U.S. PORTFOLIO OF 21 TITLES BY YEAR END

New York, NY – August 3, 2011 – As part of Time Inc.’s industry-leading effort to deliver its iconic brands everywhere consumers want them, the company today announced that all 21 of its U.S. titles will be available as tablet editions by the end of 2011. Time Inc. will be the first major U.S. magazine publisher to make all of its titles available on all leading tablet platforms, with products designed specifically for this medium.

Brands including INSTYLE, REAL SIMPLE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY will now join PEOPLE, TIME, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and FORTUNE with digital tablet versions. To date, Time Inc.’s digital magazine and other content apps have been downloaded more than 11 million times. Hundreds of thousands of current print subscribers have upgraded their subscriptions to include the tablet editions at no extra cost, with thousands more being added each week. Time Inc. has also sold more than 600,000 digital single copies of those four titles.

“Now is the time for us to make this bold commitment. In the coming year, there will clearly be many more consumers using tablets, accelerating demand for content and driving advertiser interest. We are putting ourselves in a great position to take advantage of these opportunities,” said Maurice Edelson, EVP and a member of Time Inc.’s interim management committee. “Having our entire portfolio available on tablets will create a significant new digital reach for our advertisers.”

Today, the company also announced an agreement with Barnes & Noble to sell digital subscriptions and single-copy issues of FORTUNE, PEOPLE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and TIME on the NOOK Color starting later this month, with the rest of the portfolio to follow by year-end. The Barnes & Noble agreement adds the NOOK Color to a growing list of platforms where Time Inc. distributes its digital titles, including Apple iPad, Android Marketplace, HP TouchPad and Next Issue Media’s store.

Time Inc. offers consumers an All Access approach that includes print and digital subscriptions, as well as digital-only subscriptions and the ability to purchase single copies. Additionally, each of Time Inc.’s 28 million print subscribers will have the option to upgrade their subscription to include the digital edition at no additional cost. The digital editions will be presented using reader software that is native to each platform.

Print ads will be incorporated into the tablet editions. The company plans to report digital sales and subscriber information to ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) beginning in January 2012. Time Inc. research shows consumers place a high value on digital editions that include ads.


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