Taking power away from Apple and other content gatekeepers, a consortium of top publishers -- including Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc. -- just launched their own tablet newsstand.
Dubbed Next Issue Media, the joint venture features all the publishers’ top titles -- from People and Sports Illustrated to The New Yorker and Vanity Fair -- and is designed specifically for Android tablets.
"This is a game changer for customers," said Morgan Guenther, CEO of Next Issue Media, and former president of Tivo.
In all, there are 32 magazine titles available at launch, while the catalog is expected to expand later this year.
In a preview version unveiled last year, the digital newsstand was available exclusively on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.0, with sales handled by the Verizon Wireless VCAST store. The new stand-alone app, however, is compatible with a far greater range of devices.
Next Issue Media was originally formed in 2009 with the goal of creating a shared digital newsstand to scale up digital content consumption -- not to mention wresting the control of distribution away from Apple.
Trying to calm publisher concerns, Apple unveiled a digital subscription model in early 2011 that relaxed its previous prohibition on disclosing consumer information (with their consent) to publishing partners by agreeing to share the name, email address and ZIP code of those who subscribe to digital content.
Apple also allowed publishers to sell iPad magazine subscriptions through their own Web sites, or from within the magazine apps themselves, while keeping a larger percentage of the revenue.
Despite its issues with Apple, however, Next Issue Media is planning to launch an iPad-friendly app at some point later this year. For now, magazines will be available on Android devices through subscriptions, as well as single-issue sales. Publishers will offer digital content for free or at a discount to existing print subscribers.
“Unlimited Premium” subscribers will have access to all titles in the catalog, including weeklies -- such as Entertainment Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, and Time -- for $14.99 per month. An “Unlimited Basic” subscription includes titles published monthly and biweekly for $9.99 per month. Individual magazine subscriptions range from $1.99 to $9.99 per month, while individual magazine issues are available from $2.49 to $5.99 per issue.