Publishers embrace Amazon's tablet

30 September 2011

NEW YORK: Major magazine publishers such as Hearst, Condé Nast and Meredith are embracing Amazon's Kindle Fire, seen as a potential competitor to Apple's iPad in the tablet category.

Hearst, the owner of titles including Cosmopolitan, Elle and Harper's Bazaar, will make content from across its portfolio available on the Kindle Fire, which is due to begin shipping in mid-November.

Amazon's decision to charge $199 for its slate, less than half the price of the iPad, and the ability to share greater amounts of information than with Apple, both appealed to Hearst.

"What they've done is very smart - they've counter-programmed to Apple," John Loughlin, EVP, general manager at Hearst. "As a function of price, if Apple is Mercedes, then Amazon is Ford, as Ford sells multiple times the product of a Mercedes. The Fire is affordable and it's very well designed."

Condé Nast is introducing 17 titles on the Kindle Fire, from The New Yorker to Vanity Fair and Wired. One tool proving attractive to the firm is the "Newsstand", effectively a special store for print publications.

"We need a place to show off the content," said Monica Ray, Condé Nast's EVP, consumer marketing. To encourage subscriptions, Condé Nast will offer a three month free trial to anyone making a purchase using the Kindle Fire.

"The price [differential] is huge for the Fire, and I think that opens us up to a lot of new markets," Ray added.

Meredith is planning a more limited roll out on the Kindle Fire - in the form of Fitness, Parents and Better Homes - but again anticipates the wider reach of Amazon's slate could yield considerable benefits.

"The challenge is that we have a big segment of the mass market in middle America, who are not early adopters and are price sensitive," Liz Schimel, chief digital officer at Meredith, said. "This device breaks that barrier."

Time Inc is currently said to be in talks with Amazon regarding similar initiatives to those of its rivals, while Rodale has pushed its entire stable onto this gadget.

Dave Limp, vp for the Kindle at Amazon, suggested the company's latest piece of hardware was ideal for publishers. "It comes with mail ... but certainly the primary function - the one we've optimized it for - is media consumption," he said.

"I watch my movies and read magazines on this [Fire] because it's such an amazing experience. But then, when I sit down and want to read a novel, I take out my Kindle 3G. At $199 and $79 you can buy two of these and it's still lower cost than other people's first device."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Women's Wear Daily, The Seattle Times; additional content by Warc staff