Next Issue Consortium Falls Down to Earth

  • February 13, 2011, 12:00 AM EST

Once, Next Issue Media looked like it might have a bright future. An unprecedented collaboration by five of publishing’s biggest companies, Next Issue was intended to secure their digital future by preparing magazines for digital delivery and creating an iTunes-like online newsstand from which to sell them.

Now, however, it looks like it could be the latest in a line of failed digital consortiums.
Nearly two years since the idea for the consortium was formulated, Next Issue has been a costly venture—backers Time Inc., Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith and News Corp. are estimated to have committed as much as $25 million so far—that’s gotten little traction.

The only goal Next Issue is still talking about is a digital newsstand, and even that’s far behind schedule. At last check, it was to launch this spring, a year after the original target date, and with only a few titles from each of the partner companies. It’s far from the comprehensive e-store its founders originally envisioned.

“They’ve violated the core premise of underpromise and overdeliver,” scoffed a publishing exec not involved in the consortium.

Next Issue is starting to look like the latest in a line of such consortiums. Back in 1995, nine newspaper companies, including Gannett and The New York Times Co., formed the New Century Network, an effort to create a centralized Web site to promote their local content. Each put $1 million into the venture. They pulled the plug two years later.

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