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World's largest media brands announce partnership for digital storefront, mobile reading

Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc. announced a much-hyped partnership to develop open standards for a new digital storefront to let consumers access media content on portable digital devices.

The venture will welcome other publishers beyond the various publications of the equity partners. Revenue is expected to be generated from mobile content and advertising sales, as well as from print subscriptions.

?We?re seeing some interesting things happen in terms of mobile reading,? said John Squires, the New York-based interim managing director of the joint venture. ?It?s beyond comprehension how many books are being read on mobile now.

?If we don?t make this transition, if we don?t think about it in a thoughtful way and realize what we?re seeing in terms of mobile reading we?ll miss a great business opportunity for these publishers, a fabulous opportunity for consumers and for very little magazine and newspaper available on the mobile platform today.?

Before moving on to become the interim managing director of what some call the iTunes of magazines, Mr. Squires served as executive vice president of Time Inc.

In November of 2001, Squires was elected to the board of directors of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) and in 2007, he was named treasurer of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA).

Marrying print and digital
According to the unnamed joint venture, the services it will provide for publishers and advertisers include a cost-efficient, consumer-focused environment.

Details about how advertisements will be placed and sold have yet to be hammered out.

In addition to new magazine and newspaper-reading experiences, the service may expand to include books, comic books, blogs and other media.

Condé Nast?s GQ magazine went mobile for its much-hyped December issue featuring the annual ?Men of the Year? story.

The application, available in the App Store for $2.99, is a direct replica of the print edition and features advertisements from Grey Goose and Gillette. It meets ABC standards and its sales count in the overall circulation of the magazine (see story).

Mr. Squires said that it goes too far to say any one example of magazines experimenting with mobile, like GQ?s application or the Sports Illustrated reader, will be exactly what will be developed by the partners.

?I can?t really say the GQ app is exactly what we?re doing,? Mr. Squires said. ?I think it is indicative to the kind of products that can succeed out of this joint development.?

Mr. Squires also said that it is too early in the development phase to say whether the new digital magazines will meet ABC standards.

In terms of advertising, Mr. Squires said it is up to the various magazines to determine how they sell space. However, there will be new formats that benefit from the planned interactive nature of this new medium.

Mr. Squires said he does not know if the partners can ever make sure that the new venture will not cannibalize print.

Details about the new venture are still being worked out, but Mr. Squires said that some publishers will marry the digital subscription to consumers who already have a print subscription.

?We want to build a product that is attractive to consumers,? Mr. Squires said. ?This new medium is highly interesting to advertisers and there are enormous branding capabilities by combining what?s best in print and best in digital.

?It is not meant to replace print, but we think all together it will be a very attractive new offering for publishers to interact with consumers and advertisers,? he said.