By Jennifer Saba
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Magazine publisher Conde Nast announced a major partnership with Amazon on Tuesday in which the Internet retailer will handle print and digital subscriptions for its stable of glossy publications like Vogue, Wired and Vanity Fair.
Conde Nast is the first magazine publisher to collaborate with Amazon on this type of service, a move that will simplify its subscription process, which currently involves direct mail and stacks of magazine insert cards.
Amazon will allow consumers to purchase, manage and renew their magazine subscriptions under a new "all access" plan for both print and digital editions using their Amazon account. People can still go to Conde Nast directly or to its other partners including Apple Inc.
The digital subscriptions will be made available on several mobile platforms including the Kindle Fire, Apple's iPad and Google's Android tablets and phones.
It will introduce Conde Nast to new readers through Amazon's more than 200 million customer accounts worldwide.
"We are using the partnership with Amazon to make purchasing and renewing subscriptions as easy as humanly possible," said Bob Sauerberg, president of Conde Nast, in an interview last Wednesday.
"We want to go from selling print subscriptions to selling access to all our content."
Conde Nast will offer introductory bundled rates for $6 or less for six months for both print and digital versions of Vogue, Glamour, Bon Appetit, Lucky, Golf Digest, Vanity Fair and Wired. It plans to roll out its other 11 consumer titles including the New Yorker later in the year.
"Magazines have real deep value in both formats," said Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content at Amazon. "A lot of consumers want to keep one foot in both camps."
Conde Nast's total circulation, including print and digital, is about 18.5 million copies, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. About 4 percent of its total subscriber base is digital.
Sauerberg and Grandinetti started talks about a potential partnership over breakfast during the magazine trade organization MPA's annual conference last year.
"For years we have worked hard at trying to make buying anything really easy," Grandinetti said. "Even though people really love magazines, I would not say they love the process of maintaining their subscription."
Increasing digital copies is a key part of the magazine's industry future success as more people choose to read on smartphones and tablets, while advertisers are placing more dollars toward digital displays at the expense of print.
At the same time, mobile device makers have a huge appetite for media content including magazines, newspapers and TV shows to spur people to buy tablets and smartphones.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos agreed to purchase The Washington Post from the Graham family for $250 million, igniting speculation that Bezos could transform the paper into a streaming news service delivered to tablets, computers and phones.
Grandinetti would not comment on any plans involving the Post, adding that the paper is solely under Bezos's ownership.
Even as the giants of tech court publishers, media companies have had an uneasy relationship with Silicon Valley after watching the music industry dwindle as people flocked to buy songs on iTunes for much less than the price of a CD.
For example, Time Inc, a division of Time Warner the largest magazine publisher in the U.S, was one of the last holdouts to join Apple's newsstand. The standoff was because the world's largest technology company did not want to share subscriber data with the publisher of Sports Illustrated and People.
Subscriber information is critical to magazine publishers who use it to give advertisers a better picture about their readers.
Conde Nast, though, is usually one of the first to wade into the water with innovations - for instance it was the first to offer subscriptions through Apple's newsstand with the New Yorker.
"We really try and connect with the tech companies on the West Coast," Sauerberg said. "We know what we're good at and they know what they are good at."
In Conde Nast's agreement with Amazon, Sauerberg said that Amazon is providing the same consumer data that Conde Nast would get when a reader subscribes directly through the company.
Amazon is taking a cut of the subscription revenue though both companies declined to provide further details. In other arrangements Amazon typically takes 30 percent.
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Edited by Ronald Grover and Ken Wills)