Next Issue Media: A Netflix-Like Platform for Magazines

Tablets, specifically the iPad, were supposed to save the magazine industry, and it turns out that digital subscriptions make up a solitary percentage point of the industry’s circulation. However, the market might finally get the boost it needs with today’s launch of Next Issue Media, a Netflix-like platform for magazines from the world’s biggest publishers.

The pitch is simple and intuitive: All the magazines you want, delivered digitally to your tablet, for a flat fee of either $10 or $15 a month.

There are catches, of course. The good news is that most of these are solvable. The bad news is that there are a few, and for now, they’re big:

  • The digital magazines require anapp that will only work on Android tablets running Honeycomb. Next Issue says it will submit a version to Apple soon and hopes to have it available this summer. No word on Amazon’s Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, which run earlier — and heavily modified — versions of Google’s operating system.
  • You can’t get any magazine you want: Just 32 titles from the four magazine publishers in Next Issue’s joint venture: Hearst, Meredith, Time Inc. and Conde Nast. (News Corp., which also owns this Web site, is a Next Issue backer, but hasn’t put anything it owns into this offering.) That said, the list includes lots of the publishers’ best-known titles: Sports Illustrated, Fortune, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Elle, Better Homes and Gardens, etc. Next Issue says it will add more “later this year,” and also plans to bring outside publishers into the offering.
  • If you like reading magazines in both print and digital form, this offer won’t work for you. While publishers have recently started bundling print and digital subscriptions for the same price — essentially giving away digital in exchange for full-priced print subscriptions — these deals don’t include any print issues at all.

It sounds like an industry ready to try some stuff and see what works. Just like all the start-ups that insist they want to disrupt it.