This is the half-baked idea that Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and magazine mogul Conde Nast are proposing this week. The two companies are teaming up to offer printer-fueled content from Conde Nast magazines including Allure, Wired, and Epicurious.
The relationship is obviously a win-win for the companies:
- Conde Nast gets to sell subscriptions without incurring printing or mailing costs.
- HP rakes it in by selling more printer cartridges. (Just think about how much ink it would take to print out a Glamour fashion spread.)
Then we get to the consumer.
Who wants to waste that much paper and foot the bill for all of that ink? How cheap must the "print at home" feature be to make it fiscally feasible? And even if HP and Conde Nast ultimately only offer select content this way, who prints articles in this digital age?
Take Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning
Conde Nast has to know that this is a ridiculous idea.
The company must realize that web-savvy readers have no problem consuming magazine content on their computers, tablets, or smartphones. And even though digital distribution didn't serve Conde Nast well in the past (its colorful reads were a bad fit for Amazon.com's (AMZN) original colorless Kindle), the company is already on-board for full-color publications when Amazon's Kindle Fire hits the market next month.
Maybe it sees this as an incremental business, stronger than the environmentalist complaints that are likely to follow. Maybe there's an opportunity here to reach out to non-subscribers with individual article printouts at home.
Either way, at least Conde Nast is smart enough to be playing both sides of the digital distribution game. There's just no way that this printing option will take off for HP.
Less Bad for HP
HP has done a better job than Dell of expanding away from the meandering PC business, and the recent change at the top opens the door for moves that would enhance shareholder value.
However, there's no way I can get behind this idea.
Printing magazines -- or even multi-page articles -- at home? Really? Don't tell me you'll be knocking on Amazon's door next, asking the e-tail leader if folks may want to print out Kindle books from home as well.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for HP. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Dell and Amazon.com.