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Tuesday, December 08, 2009, 06:40 am PT (09:40 am ET)

Major print publishers confirm collaborative digital store

Affirming repeated rumors, Condé Nast, Hearst, News Corporation, Time Inc., and Meredith all officially announced Tuesday that they will agree on open standards for a new digital storefront.

The five publishers said the independent venture will "allow consumers to enjoy their favorite media content on portable digital devices." As was reported in November, the consortium will be run in the interim by John Squires, former executive vice president with Time Inc.

"For the consumer, this digital initiative will provide access to an extraordinary selection of engaging content products, all customized for easy download on the device of their choice, including smartphones, e-readers and laptops," said Squires, the interim managing director. "Once purchased, this content will be ‘unlocked’ for consumers to enjoy anywhere, anytime, on any platform."

Publishers intend to create a reading application that can render the "distinct look and feel" of specific publications and can be optimized for a number of devices with different operating systems and screen sizes. The plan also includes a consumer storefront with an "extensive selection" of products, and will also allow "innovative advertising opportunities."

While the store will initially include magazines and newspapers, it may expand in the future to books, comic books, blogs and more. Outside publishers, beyond the five equity partners, will also be welcome to offer their content on the unnamed service. Publishers will be able to obtain revenue from subscriptions and advertising sales.

Together, the five companies represent a reading audience of 144.6 million. They hope to gain some of the 10 million readers expected to be sold in the U.S. in 2010, along with 50 million smartphones in the country by the end of next year.

Interestingly, all of the partners in the new digital store have also presented their own, individual plans for digital subscriptions. Hearst has said it will launch a service sometime in 2010, while Time Inc. has been showing off a tablet-friendly magazine concept.

Likely to play a part in these companies' plans is Apple's rumored forthcoming tablet device. Earlier this year, reports claimed that Apple had reached out to publishers about bringing their print publications to the touchscreen device. The new, unannounced hardware is expected to debut in early 2010.