Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Most — But Not All — Big Magazine Publishers Sign On for Amazon’s Tablet

In 2010, magazine publishers got giddy about the prospects of selling their stuff on the iPad. This year’s version of the story: Lots of enthusiasm, tempered with a little bit of skepticism, over Amazon’s new tablet.

When Amazon unveils its new iPad-like device on Wednesday, it will have the backing of at least three of the big magazine publishers: Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith all have deals to sell digital versions of their titles on the new device, according to industry sources.

The notable standout, for now, is Time Warner’s giant Time Inc., which has yet to come to terms with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. A person familiar with negotiations suggests that a deal won’t get done in the next two days, either — “hopefully by the end of the year” was the guidance I got today.

Publishing sources say Amazon’s terms will roughly mirror the ones that Apple has established with most magazines this year: Publishers will keep around 70 percent of all Amazon sales, and the retailer will share some customer data with the publishers. The deals aren’t cookie cutter replicas, however, and in some cases Amazon may take a little more or less than 70 percent, depending on the title and the customer offer.

It’s worth noting that Time Inc., the likely holdout for Wednesday’s launch, has yet to completely embrace Apple’s subscription terms as well. The publisher sells individual titles through Apple’s App Store but has yet to strike a deal to sell subscriptions directly from the platform.

Industry sources say publishers have tailored some of their titles for the seven-inch tablet that Amazon plans to unveil on Wednesday, with the expectation that the company will roll out a bigger version that is closer in size to the iPad next year. Both tablets will use Google’s Android operating system.

The publishers who are on board with Amazon view their decision to link up as a no-brainer: They want more distribution channels for their stuff, not fewer. And they’ve been begging, unsuccessfully, for a credible competitor to the iPad since April 2010.

There’s no guarantee that Amazon will be one either, of course. But if you’re going to try to sell stuff, it doesn’t hurt to sell it through the world’s biggest e-commerce platform.

“You’ve got beauty and design with Apple, which we love,” says a publisher who has an Amazon deal. “But with Amazon you have marketing, and ease of use. We’re very optimistic.”

And Amazon has another compelling reason for publishers to join up: It’s already a huge partner for many of them, as a marketing platform for their ink-and-paper titles. Hearst and Amazon spelled out that relationship in a press release earlier this month, which noted that “Amazon will become Hearst’s single-largest third-party seller of print subscriptions for its magazines via digital channels.”

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google