Feeds

Media monsters float co-op ebook 'storefront'

Circling the publishing wagons

The Power of One Infographic

A quintet of publishing heavyweights have come together to develop a "digital storefront" for the delivery of media to portable devices.

According to a joint statement released on Tuesday, content in that shared storefront would include magazine and newspaper "reading experiences", and eventually "books, comic books, blogs and other media".

And the new venture would certainly have a wealth of content from which to choose, seeing as how the group's founding members include Condé Nast (27 pubs including The New Yorker, Wired, and Vanity Fair), Hearst Corporation (15 daily newspapers, 200 international mags, 29 TV stations, and more), Meredith (23 subscription titles, over 150 newsstand titles, 12 TV stations, and more), News Corporation (The Times, The Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins Publishers, and much, much more), and Time Inc (the eponymous weekly, plus People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated and - yes - more).

As envisioned by the founding quintet, the initiative has a quartet of goals:

  • a common reading application versatile enough to support the "distinctive look and feel of each publication" - think color illustrations, photos, video, and other visuals,
  • a publishing system that would allow content to be optimized for a variety of display sizes and operating systems,
  • the aforementioned "digital storefront" stocked with a wide range of content, and of course
  • "a rich array of innovative advertising opportunities" - which would, one assumes, allow for online purchases of advertised products.

Although the venture was announced on Tuesday as a partnership of the five companies mentioned, it won't be limited to them. As the joint statement explains, "the venture will welcome other publishers to offer their content via this new digital platform." Revenues will come from content sales, subscriptions, and advertising.

One obvious target of the initiative is Amazon's Kindle. One obvious difference between the venture's goals and Amazon's locked-in platform is that, as explained by the venture’s interim managing director John Squires, "Once purchased, this content will be 'unlocked' for consumers to enjoy anywhere, anytime, on any platform."

Although the Kindle is currently the big dog when it comes to ereaders, there are plenty of competitors nipping at its heels, such as the Sony Reader Daily Edition, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and others.

There are also devices and content concepts under development from members of the new venture, including the Skiff from a partnership of Sprint Nextel and Hearst and an as-yet unnamed effort from Time Inc.

It's this last concept, as presented in a video demo by Sports Illustrated's editor Terry McDonell, that introduces the proverbial elephant in the ebook room: Apple. McDonell's demo is presented on what for all the world appears to be an Apple-inspired media player - the long-rumored iPad, as it were.

Knowing Apple's desire to control content delivery through its iTunes App Store, and keeping in mind the new venture's commitment to "open standards for a new digital storefront," there appears to be a battle brewing. On one side you have Apple's momentum as the go-to digital-content delivery marketplace, and on the other you have the vast content resources of the publishing quintet.

But the iTunes App Store has one other advantage: it exists. Any proposed new standard that the quintet may come up with is still unformed, unfunded, and unbuilt. Reality has a way of upstaging good intentions.

Plus, although Apple isn't in the content-creation business, it does have the advantage of being on its own on the content-delivery side of the equation. In the newly announced venture, leaders of participating companies such as News Corp's Rupert Murdoch are not accustomed to being team players with competitors such as Time and Hearst.

And then, of course, comes the bottom-line question that all content creators are grappling with today - and which, for that matter, is driving traditional publishing down the crapper: who's going to pay?

In traditional magazine publishing, subscriptions are but a minor contributor to the overall revenue stream. Advertising and newsstand sales make up the bulk of revenues. There's no reason to think that an iPad's business model - whether from Apple or from the new venture - would be any different.

And whenever you mention the words "advertising" and "online" in the same breath, another elephant enters the room: Google.

Today's announcement may be the start of something big, or it may be merely a well-intentioned but ultimately futile bump in the steep and swift downhill slide of traditional publishing. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.