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Time Catches Up With Apple's Newsstand

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 15, 2012 5:00 AM PT

A major holdout from Apple's online Newsstand announced Thursday it's bringing 20 of its consumer magazine titles to the outlet.

Time Catches Up With Apple's Newsstand

Time said monthly and yearly subscriptions, as well as single copies, will be available at the online store launched by Apple last year, along with the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 5.0.

Print subscribers will be able to access digital copies of their magazines from the newsstand for free, it added.

Magazines available at the Newsstand are All You, Coastal Living, Cooking Light, Entertainment Weekly, Essence, Fortune, Golf Magazine, Health, InStyle, Money, People, People En Espanol, People StyleWatch, Real Simple, Southern Living, Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Sunset, This Old House and Time.

Slow to Newsstand

The move to Apple's Newsstand is part of the company's strategy to be everywhere consumers want it to be, according to Time CEO Laura Lang.

All the publications appearing in Newsstand have been specifically designed to look good on the iPad, added Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services.

Why Time dragged its heels on entering Newsstand remains a subject of speculation. Perhaps it wasn't happy with Apple's 30 percent cut of subscription income generated in Newsstand. There may also have been squabbling over obtaining subscriber data.

The reason Time has now decided to contribute to Newsstand may be easier to understand. It needs to shake the money tree. In the last five years, revenues have slipped 30 percent and in the first quarter alone, ad revenues dropped 5 percent to US$19 million.

Time did not respond to our request for further details on its announcement.

Just Makes Sense

"For Time Inc.'s magazines to be shut out of Apple's Newsstand made no more business sense than it would to disappear from the checkout aisles at Walmart and Target," Dan Kennedy, an assistant Journalism professor at Northeastern University, told MacNewsWorld.

"It's a further demonstration of Apple's power in the media world," he added. "Major publishers like Time Inc. simply can't afford to say no, regardless of how unhappy they may be about the rather onerous terms that Apple insists on."

Before moving to Newsstand, several Time titles had standalone apps in Apple's App Store. They included Time, People and Sports Illustrated.

Creating independent apps for a title is easier for large publishers than small ones, according to David Blankenship, president of Advontemedia, a magazine consulting company.

Apple Deserves 30%

"If you're a major national newsstand title that everybody is familiar [with], you can probably get away with creating your own app and playing in every court," he told MacNewsWorld. Otherwise, creating an app for a title is not a good idea.

"If you were to poll even enthusiastic people about magazine content on their iPad or iPhone, you're probably going to find that not everybody wants to have 30 apps on their device for all the magazines they read," he explained.

Contributing to app proliferation is the need to have separate apps for separate devices. An iPhone magazine app will likely not be adequate for the iPad, he explained. "Your iPad app has to have different features and capabilities and do more than what the iPhone version does," he maintained.

One benefit to publishers of having a standalone app, however, is more direct contact with their subscribers. "If you have an app, you can update it and provide additional information and do things that exceed just having a new issue notification occur," Blankenship noted.

Publishers, he argued, shouldn't begrudge Apple its 30 percent of their subscription pie. "Apple has earned the right to make some money," he said. "They created a wonderful distribution system for publishers.

"I don't know why publishers are complaining about 30 percent when you think of all the cost savings that's derived from the efficiency of digital distribution," he added.

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