Updated twice below: Everyone wants a Hulu now, nevermind that Hulu’s own long term future isn’t necessarily fully secure. First was Vevo, music industry’s retrograde attempt to generate some revenues from music videos. Then a News Corp-led news consortium, and now, a magazine industry consortium headed by Time Inc, reports MediaMemo. AdAge had something less specific on this yesterday.
The plan comes out of the brainstorming John Squires has been doing at Time Inc, after he was kicked upstairs earlier in the summer at the mag giant to figure out digital for the company. The idea: for mag publishers to work to deliver content (new products or old products rehashed) onto new generation of portables like Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle and upcoming Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) tablet. The reason for a JV? So that they can control the terms on rev split, among other things, unlike the much hated Kindle 70-30 rev split, and the perennial favorite Apple iTunes hold over the music industry. Another reason: controlling customer data, as opposed to these third-party retailers.
Update 1: I just spoke to someone involved with the project, and the source insists the project is not about rev split or consumer data, but more about trying to develop new formats and standards so that when the devices come in, the mag industry is ready.
Most of the mag website have become headline products, and if such tablets become the norm going ahead, as is the prevailing sentiment, then the mag industry needs to take advantage of the touch screen, full browser, video capability, interactivity and portability in a better way. One of the other things to be solved as part of JV: how does consumer pay once and then access it across all devices, unlike the clunky model WSJ has developed in charging for every format, including print, online, Blackberry, iPhone and Kindle.
The source confirmed that the JV is looking to bring in an equity partner and raise money for it. The independent company does have a timeline for launch with the product, but a lot depends on what kinds of devices get launched, and what kind of distribution the new mag venture gets. And my sense in speaking to the source is that the talks will be with likes of HP, Dell and others, outside of the Amazon-Apple combine, at least to begin with.
By the way, Time Inc already has a magazine industry wide effort
JV going in Maghound (though owned fully by Time), which isn’t exactly burning up the charts anywhere.
Update 2: From a top exec at one of the companies planning to be part of this JV, with a healthy amount of skepticism: “I do think it’s a reasonable thing to say that it would make sense for a big print publisher to at least explore what might be achieved (consumer scale? Leverage?) by working with others of similar stature…whether or not a deal could be done that satisfied the respective parties is the question, and could be a reason for such a company to look for individual solutions in parallel. Things move so fast in our world that you really can’t put all your bets in one place…if it fails you are nowhere…Hearst and CondeNast co-own the distributor CoMag, which is some proof that deals between competitors are not 100 percent impossible. Meanwhile there are a million different kinds of companies trying to crack this nut…”