Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

"Hulu for Magazines" Launching Early 2011–But Only for Android

Next Issue Media, the “Hulu for Magazines” joint venture, plans to have its digital storefront open early next year. But you won’t be able to shop there if you’ve got an iPad.

Next Issue‘s initial incarnation will only work for devices running Google’s Android software, CEO Morgan Guenther tells me.

It’s not a technical issue, Guenther says, because “we’re ready to support Apple as well,” and he says he’s confident that will happen. But “Android is a very important tablet platform, and a very important platform for smartphones.” (Read Walt Mossberg’s review of Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy Tab.)

Guenther wouldn’t disclose other details about his launch, but you don’t have to squint to read between the lines here. The takeaway is that Google has been flexible on the business issues that are important to the publishers that own his company. And that Apple’s not there yet.

The key split, still: Publishers want the ability to sell their tablet magazines directly to consumers, or at least to be able to access the data that iTunes collects when it sells them.

Some publishers tell me that Apple’s stance has softened somewhat since this summer, when the company refused to let Time Warner’s Sports Illustrated sell subscriptions for its app. But that hasn’t led to any real concessions so far.

If you buy a subscription to Newsweek’s iPad app, for instance, the publisher has no idea who you are or how to reach you: Apple keeps all the data, as well as 30 percent of every dollar.

Presumably Guenther and his publishers are hoping sales of their magazines take off on Android tablets and phones, giving them leverage in discussions with Apple. And that seems to be what Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes was getting at it with his oblique but pointed comments last week.

But all of this wrangling may be non-issues if publishers can’t figure out how to come up with digital magazines that people are interested in, at a price they’ll pay. Aside from a few outliers like Condé Nast’s Wired, early sales numbers from iPad magazines haven’t blown anyone away.

[Image credit: Hard seat sleeper]

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