NEW YORK--In the hope of spurring a publishing renaissance, the big magazines continue to try to take advantage of the growing popularity of tablets and electronic readers.
The publishers of Time, Wired, Better Homes and Gardens, and Popular Mechanics got together last night with Samsung managers to demonstrate how their updated tablet edition, Next Issue, operates on Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Next Issue Media (NIM) is the company formed by Hearst, Conde Nast, News Corp., Meredith, and Time Inc. to spearhead their joint efforts into selling their publications on tablets.
A NIM executive showed the gathering of publishers and hardware makers how readers can find magazine titles by either scrolling through a carousel that wraps across the top of the device or by moving up and down a list. The action photos in the Sports Illustrated area look as glossy and compelling as they do in the magazine. NIM said that the company will release a fully formed Next Issue, complete with "search, discover, and reading capabilities unique" to the software.
The group also announced that five new magazine titles are available on Next Issue, including Car and Driver, Sports Illustrated, and Vanity Fair.
In conversations with some of NIM's backers last night, I noticed that they often compare the company to Hulu, the Web video portal that is also owned by three competing media companies. I mentioned to some of them that Hulu has seen conflict between stakeholders and management and that there's a long history of competitors forming companies and consortiums eventually hobbled or split apart by infighting.
Steve Sachs, a Time Inc. executive vice president of consumer marketing, told me that the publishers have done their homework, know that tablets and electronic readers are too important to the industry, and that New Media enjoys plenty of cooperation from the owners.
One question about Next Issue was why it seemed to take forever to launch? NIM CEO Morgan Guenther told the gathering that he's heard from lots of people who told him NIM was too slow. He said the time is just right for NIM to launch, and I agree. If you think that the tablet market is exclusively about Apple and the iPad, then maybe you make that argument that NIM is a year behind. But lots of different tablets are just arriving now and more are still on their way.
I agree with Guenther, e-readers and tablets have a long way to go.