Hearst to launch digital content store for publishing industry

LONDON - Natmag owner Hearst Corporation is planning to launch a service next year called Skiff that will sell digital versions of newspapers and magazines for a variety of devices.

The company said that the service would provide a way for publishers to distribute their content via a growing number of digital reading devices, while maintaining control of their relationship with advertisers and subscribers.

The service would give publishers an alternative to Amazon.com's Kindle store, which currently dominates the digital reading market. The Kindle route has frustrated some media owners because Amazon takes a large cut of content revenues and retains control of reader and transaction data.

Skiff will also show advertising, which Kindle and other e-reader services do not at present.

WSJ.com reports that Skiff will offer publications from Hearst-owned titles such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Cosmopolitan, as well as from other publishers that have agreed to participate.

Hearst is believed to be designing content so that it will be more visually appealing to readers, featuring better graphics and a look that is more in line with print editions, allowing for the inclusion of advertising.

Launching in 2010, Skiff will include an online store where users can buy content.

Gilbert Fuchsberg, Skiff's president, said in a statement: "Skiff's goal is to connect publishers and marketers with consumers. We will accomplish this by delivering engaging reading experiences that consumers will value and a business model that respects publishers' needs."

Hearst has been developing Skiff, formerly known as FirstPaper, for more than two years.

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