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Time Inc. Will Experiment With Hybrid Ad-Subscription Models Online — And With Hybrid Mags

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I was a little startled by the headline at BI proclaiming that Time Inc. would start charging for online content. The fine print is a little less emphatic — make that some content and as an experiment to start. Time Inc. EVP John Squires told reporters Wednesday that some of the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) unit’s magazine sites would start experimenting with a mix of free and paid content over the next eight months because there’s too much ad inventory online.

I wasn’t there. (Some days I wish I could clone myself; other days I’m way glad I can’t — and so are the people around me.) A Time Inc. spokeswoman reached after hours stressed that the company has no plans to abandon ad-supported sites but that it is considering tests of a ‘hybrid’ approach where some content might be come subscription only: “There is nothing specific to point to now but you can expect some experiments within six to eight months. We’re also looking closely at devices and applications and pricing and business models associated with those.”

Time Inc. already sells Time and Fortune via the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle, the #3 and #10 bestsellers out of 24. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of its blogs or other content that could be sold topically — politics, for instance — show up for subscription via Kindle Blogs (Disclaimer: paidContent is on Kindle.) As for the hybrid, if any company has enough content to split some off for non-print-linked subscriptions, it would be Time Inc. It’s tried walling content off to print subs only but I’m blanking right now on recent online-only efforts.

Mine: Meanwhile, I played a little bit today with another Time Inc. experiment — Mine, a “magazine made especially for you.” In exchange for some detailed info — name, address, e-mail address, birthdate — users can select up to five of eight magazines from Time Inc. and American Express that will be used to create a personalized magazine, 56 variations in all. (The eight mags: Time, Sports Illustrated, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Money, In Style, Golf, and Travel + Leisure.) Toyota’s Lexus brand is exclusively sponsoring five biweekly issues of Mine that will be delivered in print to the first 31,000 or digitally to the first 200,000 who sign up by June 15; each, according to AP, will be 36 pages and include four full-page Lexus ads. Why Lexus? The new RX model being hyped is highly customizable.