Time Inc. Strikes Subscription Deal With Apple

'SI,' 'Time,' 'Fortune' apps free to print subscribers

Time Inc., the country's largest magazine publisher, confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that it has reached an arrangement with Apple to let print subscribers to Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune access those magazines’ iPad editions for free. Time Inc. struck a similar deal for People magazine in August.

The pact seems to be a step forward in magazine publishers’ months-long fight with Apple over terms to sell subscriptions to iPad versions of their titles. Securing subscription sales has been one of the stickiest issues publishers have faced in their struggle to charge for digital content. At Time Inc., the talks with Apple have continued despite the abrupt firing of CEO Jack Griffin and recent departure of key digital staffers. Maurice Edelson, an evp and member of a trio that’s been running the company on an interim basis, has been leading the talks.

But publishers and Apple have been unable to resolve their main sticking point, with the former insisting on having a direct relationship with their readers and the software giant refusing to give up consumer data.

In opting to make its digital magazine content free to subscribers, Time Inc. seems to be favoring widespread distribution of its content over maximizing revenue from consumers. In so doing, Time Inc. is sure to see its download numbers grow. Most magazines that have sold single digital issues only have had paltry download numbers because of the high per-issue prices they’ve charged. Time may be betting that it can make up the foregone consumer revenue with advertising, although media buyers have been skeptical towards digital editions because of the lack of data available on their readers.