News about the widely speculated supergroup spinoff said to be in the works between magazine publishing giants Time Inc., Hearst and Conde Nast has taken another step forward. The New York Observer reported that John Squires will effectively leave Time Inc. as executive vice president to head up the new entity for a six-month interim period.
Squires [pictured] appears to have been the point person on the initiative, which was formed early this year to create a common platform and format for digital magazine products. A source told the Observer that "this was his deal from the get-go."
It is not apparent when the new company will debut, or when Squires will step into his new role there—though the Observer reports that an announcement will come before year’s end. A Time Inc. spokesperson told FOLIO: they weren’t commenting on "any aspect" of it.
Meredith, which has generally been left out of the speculation, is definitely part of the team, a source familiar with the initiative told FOLIO:. The publisher has been involved since the early stages, they said.
Conde’s Digital Push
Conde Nast has been busy lately with digital product launches that appear to be harbingers of the type of formats the consortium might produce. The company has already debuted a full issue of GQ for the iPhone and has prepped Wired magazine for Apple’s yet-to-launch tablet, announcing that it partnered with Adobe to utilize its AIR platform to build the digital products.
Key to the success of all this is producing a digital product that plays nicely with any platform or device, and Adobe’s AIR will enable that potential. The Adobe partnership is "the next piece of the puzzle for developing our unique magazine content in a digitized format that will drive the new devices that will hit the market in 2010," said Conde Nast president and CEO Charles Townsend.
When contacted, a Conde Nast spokeswoman declined to comment further on the consortium. Hearst also declined comment.
Meanwhile, aside from creating the digital formats the magazines will take, the consortium also is said to be building an iTunes-like storefront to sell the products. This, goes the speculation, is a bid to control the distribution, pricing and, ultimately, profits of the digital products sold.
What About Digital Publishing Vendors?
All of this, however, begs the question of what role, if any, existing digital magazine formats will play in this multi-publisher partnership.
Digital magazines produced by such companies as Nxtbook Media have already been available for smartphones for some time. "On one hand, this is good news for Nxtbook Media, as it validates the multi-format delivery we’ve been advocating for the past few years," Marcus Grimm, Nxtbook Media‘s marketing director, told FOLIO:. "On the other hand, we certainly wonder why publishers are intent on reinventing a wheel that’s already on the market. We’ve already released new formats for Blackberry and the iPhone that work for readers and advertisers, and are quickly developing solutions for the rising tide of devices."
Zinio sees the developments as a boon for the platform in general. "We are excited to see the American magazine industry focusing on creating a forum for dynamic designs, optimized for the medium, and supporting the growth of digital magazine consumer adoption," the company’s president and CEO Rich Maggiotto wrote in an email to FOLIO:. "This will further enable our efforts with Zinio’s 350 global publishers producing over 1,700 consumer titles, which include publications from the international divisions of Time Inc. (IPC) and Conde Nast, as well as Hearst worldwide."