iPads Apps Are Fun! But Boring Old Magazines Are Still Big Business For Time Inc. | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD

iPads apps are fun to talk about. They may even but the future of the magazine business! But for now, magazine publishing is still a print and ink proposition, and that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.

Today’s reminder: Time Inc., the industry’s biggest player, generate more than $900 million in revenue in the last quarter.

Some of that does indeed come from digital, but the vast majority of that revenue still comes from readers who buy magazines and advertisers who pay to reach them. And it can be a profitable business, too: Time Inc. generated operating income of $153 million.

The not-great news in those numbers is that while profits are up 50 percent over the previous year, that’s all because of $50 million worth layoffs and other cost cuts. So revenue hasn’t really budged. And given the state of the economy a year ago, many media companies are showing big year-over-year increases. So that’s a problem.

On parent company Time Warner’s (TWX) earnings call this morning, CFO John Martin said that the flattish ad sales numbers are in part because Time Inc. used to publish more titles a year ago. Adjust for that, and domestic ad sales are up in the “high single digits”, he says. Ad sales will also be up in Q3, when the comps are more challenging, and for all of 2010, he predicts.

So what about the iPad? Well, Conde Nast sold more than 100,000 copies of its Wired launch issue, at $4.99, which nets out to $350,000 for the publisher. But Time hasn’t sold anything close to those numbers, or they’d be boasting about them too. And even if they had, that wouldn’t mean a lot to a company that does nearly $1 billion a quarter.

Still, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes needs to say something about the iPad, so he did:He said the apps are great, and that “very shortly” the publisher would be offering similar apps to “every tablet”.

Since Apple (AAPL) is the entirety of the tablet market for now, you’ll have to guess about who he had in mind. But presumably Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) will make this a bit clearer in the near future.

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