People magazine subscribers get free access on iPad

In a move that seems kind of like a no-brainer but is actually a big step for the world of magazine publishing, Time Inc is now offering both the print and iPad versions of People magazine for one price.

As is typical with anything related to Apple products, Time has actually wanted to offer this feature for a while and offer customers a good deal but Apple wouldn’t allow the company to do anything that would actually make sense.

The iPad maker has now relented, offering Time a way for people with a current People subscription to enter a verification code and get access to the digital mag for free.

Apple gets a cut of every sale of the iPad version of People, so letting customers download the app for free means Apple will be missing out on some revenue. However, we doubt very much that there were really that many people to begin with who were willing to pay two times for one magazine.

“People’s subscriber base is extremely loyal and pays a premium price for the magazine. We want them to have the ability to consume People content however they choose,” said Time Inc editor Martha Nelson.

The announcement could break new ground for the magazine industry, as offering people double access with a subscription could actually help keep the print side of the business running. By offering what is essentially an “either or” choice of print versus digital, where digital is cheaper for most publications, consumers are more likely to choose the latter. But if they can pay a couple buck more per month for the print subscription and get the digital one for free, it will help keep print circulation numbers up.

The New York Times reports, though, that Time Inc may be a lone pioneer in this effort. Fellow leading mag publisher Conde Nast has specifically said it has no desire to offer any sort of print/digital bundling for its publications.

The new version of People’s app should be available for the next issue. It isn’t yet clear how current subscribers will receive their special iPad download codes.