Pros and Cons of an iTunes for Magazines

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Within weeks, some of the biggest names in magazine publishing may start offering their content on iTunes. Major publishers including Time Inc. and Condé Nast reportedly want to offer all their content to readers in one place for a fee. The electronic copies could be viewed on iPhones, BlackBerrys and e-book readers. Could the new sales model save the struggling companies? Bloggers weigh the pros and cons:

  • Great Idea, Simplifies Things, writes the New York Observer's John Koblin, who interviews company insiders: "Each magazine publisher now believes it’s too risky to go it alone to find new ways to get consumers to pay. If they all join together, the reasoning goes, they stand a better chance of producing greater revenue." A source familiar with the deal says, "The really, really hard part is that you’ve got so many different kinds of devices running on different operating systems. And how do you handle that? The consortium provides one point of contact for the consumer. When you come to the main store, you can get the content any way you want."

  • Won't Work. Magazines Aren't Like CDs, writes Jarvis Coffin at The Huffington Post: This is not a remedy offering much hope to magazines...What do consumers really love about magazines? They love discovery. Magazines delight readers with the unexpected things, which may be why it is so hard to translate the business opportunity into a cost-per-pleasing-new-fact-or-insight. The very thing that makes magazines innately desirable is the thing that is hard to put a price on. It is, in fact, all the "other stuff", in contrast to what users sought on albums and CDs."
  • Here Come the Pay Walls? wonders Derek Thompson at The Atlantic: "If these publishers want to make money, they can't sell a product (online news) that's already free. Does that mean we're about to see a deluge of paywalls across magazine websites? Early reports don't mention price points, or many specifics at all. But I don't see another way around it. Time magazine is basically all online. The New Yorker gives away a surprising amount of content for free. If that doesn't change, there's no reason to register at a new site."
  • These Magazines Still Need to Reinvent Themselves, writes Frederick Lardinoise at Read Write Web: "One of the reasons these publications are suffering is the long lead time that makes most of the content outdated by the time it arrives at the printer. While this still works for magazines like the Atlantic, which mostly publishes in-depth long form articles that aren't time-sensitive, gossip magazines can't really compete with TMZ or Perez Hilton. Just putting a digital copy of their magazines online simply won't cut it."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.