News Corp set to join top publishers in paid content consortium

NEW YORK - News Corporation is reported to be joining with Time Inc, Hearst, Condè Nast and Meredith to launch a paid content venture that will create a digital storefront for a wide range of magazines and newspapers.

According to various reports, including in The Sunday Times, published by News International, the News Corp-owned newspaper publisher, the venture will initially be led by Time Inc executive vice president John Squires. It follows a report that such a venture was being planned last month by The New York Times.

An official announcement is expected from the five publishers today.

The group is reported to be seeking a permanent chief executive and will focus on developing common standards for digital editions in a concerted effort to make money from online content.

The publishers are thought to be strongly considering developing their own e-reading platform to combat Amazon's Kindle, which takes 70% of revenues and retains most of the reader data. This has angered publishers who want control of the data so they can form closer relationships with their readers.

The news comes after Hearst last week said that its Skiff online service (formerly known as FirstPaper) will launch next year, selling digital versions of newspapers and magazines for a variety of devices. Additionally, Time Inc last week showed an online demonstration of a digital edition of Sports Illustrated.

Condè Nast and News Corp have both also been looking at various digital editions. These include Condè Nast developing a version of Wired suitable for e-reading and tablet computer devices.

News Corp has previously said it is interested in developing an e-reader of its own.

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