Replicating success?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the New York Times is upping its investment in Newsstand, Inc., the company which allows the Times to offer digital versions that are exact replicas of the paper’s print edition “for as little as 64¢ a day.”

While the new investment may suggest that the Times is having some traction in selling this technology, I have my doubts. Can someone help me? Who exactly is the customer for this? I am a passionate producer and patron of both printed and digital media. I certainly can understand why advertisers would like this. And I can understand why publishers would like this. I can even understand why libraries or other research-oriented institutions would like to archive digital versions of the print version of a newspaper or magazine.

But what is the compelling reason for a customer/reader to pay 65¢ a day for content available free in a different, yet compelling and now maturing, format?

As a magazine publisher, I would love for this to have a customer base. As a long-time reader of print and digital content, I just don’t get it.

(P.S. Despite there not being a newstand reader for the Mac OS, I have had the pleasure to see a demo of the product. It is like a PDF on steroids designed specifically to replicate the print-reading experience. It’s cool for a print-person like me to see and use. But still, it seems to be, at best, a transitional gimmick and, at worst, this year’s version of the CueCat, last year’s $250 million media convergence dream product that proved to be a nightmare.)