Next Issue Media is developing a sort of Netflix for tablet magazines, and hopes to launch its platform on Apple iPad this summer. The app would allow users to view all the magazines they’d like, for a flat rate of $10 or $15 a month. So far, the Next Issue platform has only worked on Android Honeycomb devices, and the company plans to submit versions to Apple soon, though there’s no word on possible versions for Amazon’s Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, which both run modified versions of the Google OS.
Digital magazine subscriptions make up just one percent of industry circulation, and publishers are working to change this. The NIM business model will stay the same – curated content sponsored mainly by ads – but customers aren’t locked in to subscribing to certain magazines, and can swap out titles at will. Another problem besides Next Issue’s lack of operating system compatibility is lack of content itself. The platform presently only offers 32 titles, in its joint venture with Hearst, Meredith, Time Inc. and Conde Nast. News Corp has also bought into into Next Issue, but has yet to contribute any content. NIM says it will add more titles later this year, and presently offers well-known magazines like Sports Illustrated, Fortune, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Elle, Better Homes and Gardens, etc. Also, no print issues are included with an NIM digital subscription. Some publishers have been adding digital content to their print editions for free – not the case with NIM.
Since the iPad hit the market, publishers have been trying to figure out how to bolster e-magazine subscription sales, and have mostly come up with .pdf copies of what they publish in print, with a couple of digital bells and whistles thrown in. There hasn’t been too many compelling reasons for readers to make the switch to all digital. NIM hopes that by changing the basic mode of subscription, there will be a rise in all-digital sales. John Loughlin, who oversees Heart’s digital sales, states, “No one has done this before, and there are lots of practical reasons for that.”
Still, publishers need to sort out the logistics of e-subscriptions, including how they’ll get paid, actual subscription costs, issues of circulation and advertising, etc. “Anybody that tells you that they have the answer, or that their model is the model that would be successful 5 years from now – they’d be suspect,” says Loughlin, adding “We’re very much in a learning mode.”