NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Conde Nast is introducing a slick platform for selling, displaying and enhancing its titles' regular print issues on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Issues rendered for the iPhone screen will sell as apps, starting with this December's issue of GQ, priced at $2.99 in the app store.
Users will be able to see every page as it appears in print as well as renderings of all the content tailored for display on the small screen. They will also be able to watch related videos, hear audio and visit advertisers' sites without leaving the app.
It's a potentially significant step in print publishers' efforts to make something positive out of digital media. For one thing, the iPhone app puts Conde in position to play on new e-readers and tablets, the company said today. "If you can get here, you're ready to go there," President-CEO Charles H. Townsend said in a presentation to reporters. "That's what this is about."
It's also a promising development at Conde in particular. The company's longtime devotion to print ad pages and relative disinterest in other revenue sources left it fully exposed to the widespread collapse in ad spending. It has already closed five magazines this year and is now slashing budgets and staff at the survivors.
The new app platform, however, could help the company squeeze circulation and real ad revenue from digital. Because the apps will include all the editorial and ads that the print editions do, the Audit Bureau of Circulations will consider the apps to be paid circulation just like newsstand sales and subscriber copies. That's important because advertisers only want to pay for ad space in issues that the audit bureau defines as paid. But it's also a big deal because Conde wants the digitized versions of its magazines to command print ad rates, not the far lower rates seen online.
Magazines and software developers have eyed just this possibility for some time, but Conde seems to have delivered first. It said it developed the platform internally over the past three months.
What comes next depends on the response from consumers, but Conde hopes it will sell more versions of more regular issues -- on the iPhone as well as devices to come. "This iPhone is just one platform," said Sarah Chubb, president of Conde Nast Digital. "We plan to be, and generally try to be, anywhere our consumers are."
GQ's December issue reaches New York and Los Angeles newsstands on Nov. 18; Conde hopes to have the app available in the iTunes store the same day. Grey Goose and Gillette are the premier sponsors of the app, based on commitments to GQ and GQ.com.