Of E-Readers and What’s Up With Next Issue Media

Do you remember Next issue Media, the joint venture between several magazines that was supposed to revolutionize digital content and platforms for the magazine industry, and become the “Hulu of Magazines”?  John Squires, late of Time Magazine, was named the interim Managing Director while the board looked for a CEO.  Which they ultimately found in Morgan Guenther, who had been CEO of a wireless entertainment services company, AirPlay, and formerly with TiVo.  In the meantime though, points out PaidContent, lots of platforms have come upon the market, with no digital content from Next Issue.  So the magazines themselves have had to work out the logistics there.

Now, who needs a third-party company, and for what? Analytics, maybe, but that’s really where Apple and other platform/device companies are the gatekeepers. One of the stated goals of the company: develop a common digital storefront. Well, while that idea sounds grand, again, it isn’t their decision; in iPad’s case it is Apple’s decision to not let any third party sell content outside of their system, and unlikely that will change soon.

Oh, and by the way, PaidContent’s piece, which was written before the CEO decision was made,  has a fairly grueling tale of the interview process through which candidates for the position had to go.

And speaking of e-readers, you may recall that at the beginning of the year, Hearst showcased its own e-reader, the Skiff.  This was a large format e-reader meant for the digital perusal of periodicals, and was supposed to launch around now.  But it won’t.  Last week,  News Corp. said that it had purchased Skiff from Hearst–but only the publisher’s e-reader software platform. Hearst still owns the actual device, but Peter Kafka in MediaMemo reports that the company is looking to unload it.  News Corp and Hearst had been talking about a deal for some time, and the whole idea behind the Skiff was to create a digital platform for  the production, distribution and sale of periodicals on a variety of platforms.  Actually this was exactly what Next Issue Media was supposed to do, as well (Hearst is also a member of that joint venture).

Meanwhile, News Corp, says Kafka,

… now has several different ways to play digital media e-commerce: In addition to Skiff, it has a stake in whatever Next Issue Media builds, as well as the digital commerce platform that News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal has built (it’s possible these latter two will be combined).

And News Corp. has purchased yet another option, by buying a stake in Journalism Online, the Gordon Crovitz/Steve Brill online subscription platform.

That’s a whole lot of choices for a market that doesn’t really exist yet, and I assume those will consolidate over time. Keep watching…

And then there are the e-reader price wars.  Nook lowered its price to $199.  The next day Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle to $189. Dennis Kneale of CNBC suggests that Amazon abandon the price war altogether and just give the Kindle away for free with a book club subscription, “or  team up with print-media companies that would subsidize the cost of making Kindles and give ’em away free as the new distribution platform for their newspapers and magazines. Another ally: big brands that could hand out the Kindle as part of their customer service—banks, retailers, bookstore chains,   Wal-Mart”. As reasoning, he notes that amazon has sold 2.5 million Kindles in teh close to 3 years since its introduction.  The iPad, he says, has sold 2 million since April.  Actually Apple announced on Wednesday that it has so far sold 3 million iPads.  No wonder nobody wants to buy the Skiff.

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