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Magazines may not be able to sell subscriptions in this terrible economic climate, but that doesn't mean that their brands and expertise should go to waste. Publishers are hoping to get a little pocket change as well as brand extension out of the iPhone's  lucrative app store. Last week, People.com launched an iPhone app for $1.99 and other publishers are announcing plans to follow suit shortly.

Hachette Filipacchi, which owns titles Elle and Car and Driver, plans to launch iPhone shopping and auto apps later this year. Meredith Corp., which owns Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle, plans to launch mobile apps in areas related to their titles this year as well. And Conde Nast, which has already entered the space with apps from Epicurious and Style.com, plans to start charging for new and premium content.

Magazine ad pages fell 23.7% in the first half of 2009, according to Mediaweek Monitor. Making an already dwindling audience pay for content may not seem like a winning model, but creating new products could boost sales.

Todd Anderman, senior vp of digital media at Hachette Filipacchi Media, tells Mediaweek:

“If you look at the paid applications that are doing well, there are a lot of games that are being paid for, tools and applications that are adding a lot of functionality...At this point in time we don’t see charging for micropayments on our Web sites. We haven’t seen any successful models on that front.”

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press all have useful (and free) iPhone apps, but for magazines, it's a different venture.

They don't have a lot of breaking news, so creating another space with the same content could be a cannibalism problem. So instead, they are turning toward more service oriented applications, offering style tips, access to encyclopedic recipe knowledge, and up to the minute photos on their area of expertise.

Its a smart brand extension at a time when the future of magazines is uncertain. While media brands may not exist in their current format in five years, publishers are realizing that their powerful name recognition can translate to other areas. Titles that want to be around in a decade need to prove that they can adapt to changing climates and business models while retaining their expertise and utility. Whether consumers are willing to pay for these services on the iPhone and other platforms depends on how well they produce their new products.

Meghan Keane

Published 27 May, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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