Next Issue Media Works To Build The Storefront Before The Audience Arrives

Magazine joint venture Next Issue Media is adding six titles to its digital storefront on the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android-powered Samsung Galaxy as it unveils an integrated app that allows users to keep their digital reads from any participating magazine in a single place.

Criticized for moving too slowly last year, NIM has been pretty active in the past month, since launching its “digital storefront” for magazines on the Galaxy. (The company held a press conference highlighting the update at the Samsung Store in the *Time Warner* Center, symbolizing the connected nature of the operation.)

The new titles include Meredith (NYSE: MDP) Corp.’s Better Homes & Gardens, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines/Hearst Magazines’ Car and Driver, Time (NYSE: TWX) Inc.’s Sports Illustrated, and Condé Nast’s Glamour Vanity Fair and Wired. They will join inaugural titles Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Fitness and Parents, Fortune, Time, and The New Yorker.

The preview release was only available to customers on the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and is now available on the 10.1 inch version.

In addition to easier browsing and purchasing of subscription plans, the new storefront app promises access to special pricing for existing print subscribers.

The pieces of NIM’s project are coming together. Initially, the plan to go with Android products as opposed to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) was a response, in part, to publishers’ displeasure with Apple’s terms — namely the 30 percent cut of the revenues from each sale. Apple also blocked some of the user data that publishers typically have at their fingertips when readers subscribe, such as basic information like where they live and what their e-mail and phone numbers are.

In between the time NIM announced its Android plans earlier this year and now, Apple hasn’t budged. But the publishers have. And so far, the complaints aren’t too loud. For example, Apple now allows publishers to allow access at no extra charge to print subscribers. But they are prevented from posting any kind of link on the app versions of their titles, or else Apple takes a cut. That’s still a vexing issue. But publishers have found that, by and large, subscribers are willing to provide personal information that will allow publishers to market directly to them.

Since the publishers — Time Inc., Meredith, Condé, Hearst and News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). — own NIM, they don’t have to worry about losing 30 cents from every dollar on each digital sale. But the iPad is still the dominant and tablet and it is expected to remain so for some time. That reduces the pressure they can leverage against Apple somewhat. But at least they have a real alternative that will provide some incremental revenue.

There’s a large constituency of publishing veterans who feel the rush to produce magazine apps on top of websites and print issues — where the real money, if not the growth, remains — is a bit futile. But publishers can’t afford to wait around until most of the population has embraced the tablet. Although there’s no reason to think that the print business model will be perfectly reproduced in the digital world, getting in early does give publishers a chance to develop new methods of making money and holding on to readers. If publishers waited until a mass audience adopts the tablet, it would simply be too late for them to catch up.