Next Issue Media CEO Guenther Short on Details

Next Issue Media, a publisher-founded e-reader consortium, has been quiet about its activities since it got off the ground almost a year ago, prompting some industry head-scratching about what exactly it’s doing.

On Tuesday, president/CEO Morgan Guenther addressed a gathering of publishers in one of his first few public statements but did little to quell questions about what NIM is up to, saying only that the consortium would launch a digital newsstand in 2011.

Speaking at the MPA’s American Magazine Conference at the Chicago Fairmont, which met Oct. 3-5, Guenther said the newsstand would be a multi-title storefront that would sell print and digital magazines bundled together, offer digital magazines for all e-reading devices and include an archival library.

Guenther wasn’t specific about a timeframe, perhaps because Apple and publishers are still wrangling over how subscriptions will be sold on the iPad. Still, the robust sales of the iPad (they’re projected to hit as high as 20 million units by the end of next year) mean a big headstart for Apple’s iTunes store, for now the only marketplace for iPad apps.

Whatever happens with Apple, publishers have a big ally in Barnes & Noble, CEO William Lynch Jr. assured them. In an interview with Reader’s Digest editor Peggy Northrop, Lynch said he wanted the bookseller to be known as the company that has the closest relationship with publishers. As for sharing customer information, though (a sticking point between publishers and Apple), Lynch said it’s valuable for his company to have that data so that it can cross-sell its Nook e-readers to magazine subscribers.

Showing his support for the industry, Lynch said he’s creating digital lounges in stores where customers can try out digital magazines on e-readers, while he hopes to move magazine racks closer to in-store cafes and the lounges.

“We aren’t pulling back on newsstand,” he said.

The morning wasn’t all devoted to e-readers. David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, urged publishers to get serious about social media and “stop making fun of Facebook.” Social networks are a threat to time spent reading magazines, and by letting members become self-publishers, upend the traditional role of magazines.

“It’s clearly an unnerving thing for anybody in media, because when you’re on Facebook, you’re a publisher,” he said.

But back to the iPad. The highlight of the morning was keynoter Oprah Winfrey, who during a highly anticipated appearance effused at length about her iPad, where she said her favorite apps included CNN, ABC and Scrabble. A few minutes later, Oprah also said she likes that she can read ”all my newspapers and magazines on it.”

One magazine she can’t read on the iPad yet is her namesake title; her interviewer, O, The Oprah Magazine editor Susan Casey, said the magazine’s app would be available Nov. 16.

Oprah also discussed the difficulty she had accepting that she’s a brand and referenced her appearance on O’s cover every month, saying, “I wrestle with the idea of being on the cover and I wonder how much longer I can do that.”