Ask almost any publisher what the single most useful thing Apple could do to help them make more money from the Newsstand and more than a few will say: "share more data".
Now Amazon is taking the hint. The online retail behemoth, which is building its own magazine and newspaper subscriptions via its Kindle Fire gadgets, today announced a deal with Condé Nast to offer "all areas access" subscriptions in print and digital to some of its biggest brands.
Vogue, Glamour, Bon Appetit, Lucky, Golf Digest, Vanity Fair and Wired are all offering the new subscription package with more to follow. Condé Nast is launching with an introductory offer of $6 or less for six month subscriptions - Reuters has the story
The key phrase from that report is:
Amazon is providing the same consumer data that Condé Nast would get when a reader subscribes directly through the company.
That's exactly what consumer magazine publishers want Apple to do - share subscriber information so they can use it to sell more digital magazines and tell advertisers more about their audience.
Digital editions bought and managed through Amazon will be available on the retailer's Kindle devices, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
The iPad still dominates the tablet market and most consumer publishers with any traction in digital editions are getting most of that revenue from the Apple devices, but the iOS platform has long suffered from accusations of discoverability problems and that crucial lack of customer data sharing as standard.
Russ Grandinetti, VP of Kindle content, tells Reuters that improving the customer experience is a big part of this too (emphasis is ours):
Magazines have real deep value in both formats. A lot of consumers want to keep one foot in both camps...
For years we have worked hard at trying to make buying anything really easy. Even though people really love magazines, I would not say they love the process of maintaining their subscription.
Still no buying via apps?
This doesn't solve the complex patchwork of problems facing digital device publishing however. Apple wants people to buy content through its own book and magazines stores and since 2011 hasn't allowed iOS users to buy content via the Kindle app (you have to go to Amazon.com via a web browser).
That means this scheme will have to bridge the divide between consumers, publishers' websites and Amazon without being able to rely on native apps on rival platforms.
App stores are good at functionality but terrible at content discovery. If you want readers to find your product within the hundreds of thousands of competing titles in app stores, good luck. Getting featured by Apple can help, sure. But that's an opaque and mysterious process that you can't rely on.
Amazon however has a product recommendation engine that drives millions of dollars in sales. It's not scientific and it's hardly perfect, but as a browsable store Amazon could well play a key role in the growing digital magazine and newspaper market. Apple isn't the only game in town, despite its clear dominance in app store revenue.
Don't forget that Conde's deal includes physical distribution as well as online, something Amazon knows all about. Could Amazon even become the thing that so far has been a Holy Grail for magazine publishers: a genuine multiplatform fulfillment house that can handle digital and physical distribution seamlessly.
Oh and they have credit card details and home addresses for almost all your target audience. This is one to watch closely.