Time Inc. Lags Rivals in iPad Rush—Why?

Is the company's reliance on sale of weekly mag subscriptions bogging it down?

Hearst has a deal to sell magazine subscriptions on Apple’s iPad. And Condé Nast reportedly isn’t far behind. But what about Time Inc.?

Of the three, Time Inc. would be the most in need of the ability to sell magazine subscriptions because its business is so weekly reliant. Readers are loathe to download and buy single issues on the iPad week after week, especially at the full cover price. (Just ask The New Yorker.) But all Time Inc. had as of last week was a deal to let existing subscribers access their magazines on the iPad.

And that deal, which Time Inc. sees as moving it toward its goal of having its titles available on all platforms, won’t generate new circulation revenue and doesn’t give Time Inc. much of a way to grow its audience. Nor does it offer advertisers much to get excited about.

While Time Inc. is still not convinced of the value of digital editions in the first place because so little is known about how people are reading them, the deal will raise the additional question of whether print readers will shift to the iPad version and miss seeing the print ads altogether.

“I view those opportunities as bonus opportunities right now [meaning: free],” says TargetCast tcm’s Audrey Siegel. Time Inc. may have been first to announce a multititle deal with Apple, but at this point it’s fallen far behind the game’s front-runners.