Print Publishers Debate 'Hulu For Magazines'

Print publishers have been searching for the business model that will keep them afloat and Time Inc. has put a new proposal in the mix: to create a 'Hulu for magazines.'

The idea is based on the popular video site, which offers free streaming of TV shows and movies from ABC, Fox, NBC, and other networks and studios.

Time Inc's idea is to take Hulu's model, but offer print content instead of video: the interface would allow readers to download magazine-like publications onto e-readers, such as the Kindle.

All Things Digital
explains the concept:

The new company, which will operate independently from the publishers that invest in it, will create a digital storefront where consumers can purchase and manage their subscriptions, which can be delivered to any device. The pitch: Control a direct relationship with consumers while gaining leverage with heavyweights like Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN).

Industry executives briefed on Squires's plan say it has been well received by Time Inc.'s peers and that several major publishers, including Hearst and Condé Nast, are expected to sign on for the JV, which isn't scheduled to debut until 2010. No comment from Hearst, Condé Nast or Time Inc., a unit of Time Warner (TWX).

Despite the buzz and positive reception from major media players, the plan still faces big hurdles. Gizmodo's opinion: the 'Hulu for magazines' idea is "so, so doomed":

As Peter Kafka points out, they have to convince people to sign up for another service--not an easy feat if they're already tangled up with a Kindle or Apple. Especially if this new service will be just magazines, and not include newspapers. And there's no way Amazon or Apple will let the publishers tie a separate service into their devices, pissing in their pool. The whole point of the Kindle is that Amazon controls the delivery method, and that's likely how Apple's tablet will work--downloading magazines and newspapers and textbooks through iTunes, just like iPhone apps or iTunes music.

Which basically leaves the the publishers with a handful of generic readers they could get their goods on, meaning they're screwed. At this point it looks like all roads to ereaders people will actually buy to pass through Amazon or soon, Apple. Sorry magazine dudes: Give in, give up or get out.