Next Issue Media, the e-reading joint venture formed by five major U.S. print publishers, is moving into formal launch mode with a new tablet newsstand, reading app and various pricing plans.
The venture—backed by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc.—has been criticized as slow to get off the ground. In the two years since the tablet market formed, Next Issue has only gotten so far as a beta test of its digital storefront, with some 25 titles for sale.
The full rollout, which is set to be announced April 4, will also be small. The offering will start with just 32 titles, albeit big-circulation ones, like Better Homes and Gardens, People and Vanity Fair. The titles will only be available on Android-powered tablets, not on the iPad, although Next Issue is applying to Apple to get the newsstand on the dominant device.
By this point, most major magazines haven’t been waiting around for Next Issue to solve its business issues; they’ve already gone out on their own to establish a presence on the iPad and other leading tablets as they try to hold on to readers and rope in new sources of revenue. So it’s unclear what benefit Next Issue’s newsstand will bring them, not to mention how heavily the offering will be promoted with consumers, given Next Issue plans to rely heavily on word-of-mouth to spread awareness.
Morgan Guenther, CEO of Next Issue Media, said while the newsstand would start small, it would have distinct features like a single app that would make for a uniform magazine reading experience, as well as all-you-can-eat pricing plans. For $9.99 a month, consumers can read all the monthlies they want to (or $14.99 for monthlies plus weeklies). Single copies and subscriptions also will be sold.
“You download the Next Issue Media reader once, and all the magazines will be presented there in single format,” he said. “We think we’ll have a compelling proposition.”