Hearst has signed a deal with Apple to become the first publishing house to sell iPad magazine subscriptions on iTunes, the Wall Street Journal reports. Beginning with the July issues of Esquire, Popular Mechanics and O, the Oprah Magazine, Hearst will have auto-billed iPad subscriptions available for $19.99 a year ($1.99 an issue).
While the publishers of the various glossies have been eager to innovate their titles with digial versions, the process by which subscriptions have been sold in the digital format ha sbeen uncharted territory, and forced pubishers to navigate issues of data and ownership with Apple.
It seems, however, that Heast -- the publisher of Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan, among other titles -- has decided that the leap to digital subscriptions is worth a certain element of paying a tithe to the gate keepers of the digital realmn. In tihs case, WSJ reports that Apple will receive 40 percent of subscription sales sold on iTunes, and stipulates that any content the titles offer for sale on their website must also be available for equal or lesser prices in the App store.
Now that Hearst has committed to Apple, it's likely that fellow houses like Condé Nast and Time Inc. will follow suit at some point in the near future. The real question after that will be, of course, how much digial iPad sales really move the needle on the magazine industry, which has struggled to find its feet after the recession.