Time Inc, once the magazine industry’s most ardent opponent of selling subscriptions through Apple, will make all of its magazines available via Apple’s newsstand, the two companies said Wednesday. Laura Lang, Time Inc’s chief executive, and Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet software and services, said in a phone interview that they had reached an agreement that would allow readers to subscribe to 20 Time Inc magazines, including People, Sports Illustrated, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly, through the newsstand section of Apple’s App Store. The move is a significant shift for Time Inc, the largest magazine publisher in the United States. Even as competitors like Conde Nast and Hearst quickly struck deals to sell subscriptions through Apple, Time Inc approached the Apple newsstand with caution, chafing at some of the restrictions Apple wanted to impose. Although it was one of the earliest publishers to introduce digital and tablet editions of its magazines, Time Inc had until now sold only the app version of single issues of its magazines through Apple. Print subscribers could use an “authentication” process to gain access to iPad and tablet editions at no additional cost. The deal is the first major initiative by Lang, who took over Time Inc. in January after serving as chief executive of the digital ad agency Digitas. She said the deal with Apple was a top priority. “For a magazine or brand like People or Time, a tablet will become an increasingly important part of the experience,” Lang said. “Our goal is to offer content where our consumers want to read it.” The agreement also signals an evolution for Apple, which has slowly backed away from some of its initial restrictions. Facing competition from Amazon, which sells magazine subscriptions for its Kindle, and Google, which has Android software, Apple has become a more agreeable partner, publishing executives have said. Neither Apple nor Time Inc would discuss the exact financial terms of the agreement, but Cue said Time Inc’s heft did not influence them. “We offer the same terms to everyone no matter how big or how small,” he said. The Apple newsstand sells more than 5,000 magazines and newspapers. The majority of the more than 5 million newsstand customers buy subscriptions rather than single issues, Cue said. Adding magazines like People, Sports Illustrated and Time, three of the top five magazines overall in circulation revenue in 2011, was essential, he added. The agreement also moves Apple further along in its strategy of expanding its App Store beyond popular games like Angry Birds and making it more of a destination for news, information and videos. Last fall, when Apple’s newsstand began, publishers criticized the tech company for not releasing subscriber data, which publishers value because they can use it to customize ads and show advertisers who they are reaching. That friction has eased as Apple has offered readers the ability to “opt in” on sharing data with publishers. Now, 66 per cent of tablet users said they would share personal information in return for advertising that fits their needs, according to a survey from the Association of Magazine Media. Another point of contention for Time Inc’s parent company, Time Warner, was the control Apple wielded over pricing and the 30 per cent commission it demanded for magazine subscriptions bought through its App Store. “The only deal we have not done is with Apple and to cede to their demands to sell digital subscriptions,” Jeffrey L Bewkes, chief executive of Time Warner, said in a November 30 interview, just after announcing Lang’s appointment. “They want you to be subscribing to them, and the last time we looked they weren’t making the magazines,” Bewkes said of Apple. A Time Warner spokesman, Gary Ginsberg, said in an email: “We watched newsstand evolve over the last year and became satisfied they understand our customers and can meet our needs.” Cue said Apple’s relationship with publishers evolved as the iPad became a more common way for people to read. “There was some controversy early on because it was something new and hadn’t been done before,” he said. Subscribers to the print edition of Time Inc magazines can now authenticate their print subscription or buy a subscription through a website and receive the magazine’s newsstand app at no additional charge. Lang did not comment on Time Inc’s previous stance toward Apple. “It’s hard for me to talk about what happened before, but when I joined this was a top priority because this is where our consumers are,” she said. Like the rest of the print publishing business, Time Inc. has in recent years grappled with a decline in print advertising revenue and an uncertain transition to a digital future. Revenue has declined roughly 30 per cent in the last five years, and advertising revenue in the first quarter of this year dropped by 5 per cent, or $19 million.
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