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Magazine publishers plan digital store

By Kenneth Li in New York and Joseph Menn in San Francisco

Time Inc is leading an industry-wide joint venture to create a digital store for magazines as a way for publishers to avoid surrendering their digital future to the likes of Amazon.com or Apple.

The new service, as yet unnamed, would serve as a digital storefront for magazines, possibly newspapers and other publications and is expected to be announced in about a month. The launch is planned for 2010, people familiar with the plan said.

Time, a division of Time Warner, has held talks with Condé Nast and Hearst about the venture. Time and Condé Nast declined to comment, and Hearst was not immediately reachable.

The business would be structured like Hulu, a popular online video service formed by NBC Universal, News Corp and Disney. Founding publishers are expected to take equity stakes in the new entity and the venture will be financed by its partners. Details of the arrangement have not been finalised, these people said.

Publishers fear repeating the mistakes of the music industry, which delayed exploiting digital businesses until Apple created iTunes, now the world's largest seller of digital music.

The creation of the store comes on the heels of a devastating advertising decline for newspapers and magazines as consumers migrate to the web, where material is available free of charge. Amazon.com's Kindle e-reader device and service has also emerged as the frontrunner in digital book sales, creating unease among publishers.