New Digital Publishing Venture Boasts Access To 144 Million-Plus Audience; Squires Talks

Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith (NYSE: MDP), News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). and Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) are making it formal: the five publishers are equity partners in a new digital publishing venture with grand designs. They want nothing less than to develop open standards for cross-platform e-reader technology, advertising and digital sales — and they’re going to put their brands behind it. Together, the company says the five represent an unduplicated audience of 144.6 million.

It only seems like we’ve been hearing about a digital magazine consortium for ages, according to John Squires, the interim managing director. “There’s been a lot drum roll for it but it hasn’t been been that long.” After some chatter, the effort came together over the past four months. The Time Inc. vet has been in the mix all along and is now one of the candidates for CEO of the nameless venture being announced this morning. Squires is leaving Time Inc. to serve as interim director while the CEO search is conducted. “Hopefully, I’ll be CEO,” he told paidContent during an interview.

Squires said there are no plans to take on further equity partners but they’re talking to client partners. No numbers from Squires or others involved on how much the five partners are investing. He calls it “enough to give us a good start.” He also isn’t talking about staff size, although he is hiring for a Manhattan office. A company name? That probably will wait until there’s a product.

Other groups: Squires isn’t stressing over possible competition or complications from others, including efforts that might involve the partners. News Corp. is still working on its own consortium, for instance. “I don’t know that that’s relevant to us. We