Apple today quietly launched a new feature for Newsstand, whereby publications by partner Hearst (covering their entire catalog) will now be available to subscribers days before they come to print, or other digital editions. Hearst’s library includes a number of top titles, including Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Seventeen and Harper’s Bazaar among many others.
The exclusive arrangement varies by individual publication in terms of how far in advance you’ll be able to get the various Hearst titles compared to in print and from other online storefronts like Amazon’s Kindle marketplace, but each will be available at least a few days in advance, I’m told. Existing subscribers will get early access, as well as those signing up for the first time.
Hearst has previously indicated that its titles were seeing signs of significant success on Apple’s Newsstand store for digital periodicals. It said earlier this year that it has 800,000 total digital subscribers, and while it’s unclear exactly how many of those came on board via its iOS-based publications, the company did share in December, 2011 that despite early fears they might lose out on a direct subscriber relationship through Apple’s store, more than 60 percent of subscribers actually opt in to info sharing through Newsstand, and “efficient” delivery method Newsstand provides led to a significant surge in digital subscriptions. Late last year, analytics firm App Annie found that Newsstand revenue in general had quadrupled since its launch.
For Apple, the arrangement with Hearst means that it can provide a considerable competitive advantage to users via its platform. Now that Amazon has followed its lead and expanded digital magazine subscriptions to its iOS Kindle apps, early access for subscribers is a good way to help it maintain the early edge Newsstand’s initial launch provided in this arena.
Apple and company are remaining mum on the details of the deal here, but you have to wonder if it isn’t something they’ll try to pursue with some of the other publishers out there, and whether those other publishers will bite.