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Magazine Publishers Teaming Up for Digital Publishing

The New York Observer reports that a number of major magazine publishers are nearing an agreement to launch a joint venture that would be focused on digital distribution of their content, aiming to create a digital storefront similar to Apple's iTunes Store.

The company would make up one of the biggest alliances among rival publishers ever formed in print media, with Time Inc., Cond Nast and Hearst all expected to join, houses that together publish more than 50 magazines, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and O, The Oprah Magazine.

A report from early last month noted that such a plan for an industry-wide digital storefront was in the works in order to prepare for the probable launch of Apple's much-rumored tablet device in the relatively near future. Today's report, however, goes beyond the previous claims, pointing to the creation of a separate company headed by John Squires, an executive vice president at Time, to manage the distribution of digital content for a wide array of devices, as well as offering standard print media.

The company will prepare magazines that can work across multiple digital platforms, whether the iPhone, the BlackBerry or countless other digital devices. The company will not develop an e-book, but create something that people familiar with the plans compare to iTunes -- a store where you can buy new and distinct iterations of The New Yorker or Time. Print magazines will also be for sale.

A deal has not yet been finalized, but an announcement may be made "within weeks" and may include additional publishers beyond Time, Cond Nast and Hearst.