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Digital magazine joint venture Next Issue Media is finally available for the iPad (s AAPL), three months after it launched for Android. With the app, users can read popular magazines like People, Vogue, the New Yorker and Real Simple for a flat monthly fee.
Next Issue’s expansion to iPad is its first real chance at widespread adoption. The company started up back in 2009, when Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp (s NWS) and Time Inc. (s TWX) teamed up to create a cross-platform digital newsstand — but there were no visible results until the launch of a digital storefront “preview” on the Samsung Galaxy tablet in May 2011. The launch for Android (s GOOG) 3.0 (Honeycomb) and above in April 2012 was a small step forward, but few people owned the right tablet.
With Next Issue’s launch on iPad, there’s a better opportunity to see whether readers are interested in all-you-can-read tablet magazines for a flat monthly fee. Thirty-nine popular titles are available now (full list below), with more expected later this year. Subscribers can choose an “unlimited basic” subscription for $9.99 per month, which gives them access to all monthly and biweekly titles, or an “unlimited premium” subscription for $14.99 per month, which adds weeklies like Time and the New Yorker to the mix. They can also purchase individual magazine subscriptions, ranging in price from $1.99 to $5.99 per month, and individual magazine issues, ranging in price from $2.49 to $5.99 per issue. There are free 30-day trials for both unlimited basic and premium subscriptions.
If a user already subscribes to a certain title, he or she can read that digital edition from within the app for free “or a nominal cost,” depending on whether the publisher bundles print and digital editions (as Time Inc., Condé Nast and Meredith do) or charges separately for digital editions (as Hearst does).
Is it a good deal?
Next Issue’s app looks great on both Android and iPad, and its availability on iPad opens it up to many more magazine lovers. But will they find unlimited subscriptions worth the fee? It probably depends on how much they’re paying for magazine subscriptions now, whether they’re willing to shift the money they’re paying from print to digital, how much they value a print subscription, how much they want to read popular magazines in general versus specific titles, and whether Next Issue has the titles they want. (As my colleague Mathew Ingram notes, this is also not the platform for people who prefer a Flipboard-style, social-based method of reading content.)
A personal example: My household subscribes to the print versions of New Yorker, Bon Appetit, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living and the Economist. The total annual cost we pay for those magazines (using the prices listed on the magazine website, and assuming no discounts for multi-year subscriptions or other special offers) is $256.98, or about $21 a month. So an “unlimited premium” Next Issue Media subscription should be a bargain for us at $14.99 a month — except it doesn’t include print issues and two of the magazines we subscribe to, Martha Stewart Living and the Economist, aren’t available, at least for now.
As Next Issue adds more magazines, though — CEO Morgan Guenther tells me that the company plans to double the number of titles it offers this year — it becomes a better deal, and dropping print subscriptions becomes more enticing. In 2013, Next Issue will add its first “outside publisher” titles — i.e., magazines not published by the five companies already participating in the JV — in “key segments.” (That could include magazines like The Economist and Consumer Reports.) The company also plans to expand to some international markets, add search and social features, add some advertising and expand to newspapers (at which point titles from News Corp, the fifth partner in the JV, will become available).
The list of magazines available now, by publisher
*=weekly magazine only included in premium subscription package
- Bon Appétit
- Condé Nast Traveler
- Golf Digest
- The New Yorker*
- Vanity Fair
- Car and Driver
- Popular Mechanics
- Better Homes and Gardens
- All You
- Coastal Living
- Cooking Light
- Entertainment Weekly
- People en Español
- People StyleWatch
- Real Simple
- Southern Living
- Sports Illustrated*
- Sports Illustrated Kids
- This Old House