Hearst Makes Deal to Sell Subscriptions on iPad, But Will Conde Nast Deliver First?

Rumors Percolate That iPad Subs Are Imminent at Conde Nast

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Hearst Corp.'s new deal with Apple will make subscriptions available for iPad editions of Esquire, Popular Mechanics and O, The Oprah Magazine next month, but Conde Nast may actually beat its rival to the punch.

After the Hearst deal was reported late Wednesday afternoon by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed by a Hearst spokeswoman, rumors emerged that iPad subscriptions for Conde Nast titles would actually hit the App Store first. Hearst's iPad subscriptions won't debut until the three magazines' issues cover-dated July, which will come out in June. That gives Conde some time, especially if it already has an agreement of its own in place, as some people believe.

"Getting something out first is what ultimately matters in the short term," said an employee at Conde Nast, which publishes magazine such as The New Yorker, Vogue and Bon Appetit. "In the long term it's going to come down to subscriptions, who's in a better position with an audience and a brand that can sell the most amount of subs. A year from now whoever has the most amount of subs wins. It doesn't matter who gets the press release out soonest."

A Conde Nast spokeswoman declined to comment.

Hearst is pricing its first three subscription titles on the iPad at $1.99 per month and $19.99 per year. Its deal, however, applies not just to magazines but the company's newspaper, TV and other media assets around the world.

It also gives Hearst a better revenue share and more data on subscribers than Apple generally offers, the Hearst spokeswoman said, declining to elaborate.

Data sharing has been the biggest sticking point for big publishers. They want to sell subscriptions to their iPad editions, having found mostly weak traction for single-copy sales on the iPad, but they also want to know who their subscribers are for marketing purposes. Under the terms Apple introduced in February, people who subscribe through the App Store are asked whether they want to share their information with publishers. "The publisher would like your name, email and ZIP code so they can send you messages about related products in accordance with their privacy policy," a box prompts. Subscribers then must choose between "Allow" and "Don't Allow."

Magazines such as Elle, Popular Science, Nylon and Bloomberg Businessweek have accepted Apple's terms and started selling iPad subscriptions, but major publishing companies such as Hearst, Conde Nast and Time Inc. held off.

Time Inc. did reach a deal with Apple giving Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune's print subscribers free access to those titles' iPad editions starting this week, an arrangement the company's People magazine already enjoyed.

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