Time Inc. to accept bitcoin

Magazine publisher Time Inc. will start accepting the digital currency bitcoin as payment for subscriptions to popular magazines like Fortune, Health and Travel + Leisure.

“We are always looking for ways to make it easier for consumers to engage with our brands and this pilot program will give bitcoin users a seamless and simple way to purchase subscriptions,” said Lynne Biggar, Time Inc. executive vice president of consumer marketing and revenue.

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Bitcoins only exist online, but can be exchanged for physical currency or used to pay for items at an increasing number of companies, including Overstock.com, Google and Expedia.

Time will work with bitcoin payment processor Coinbase on its program. In a blog post, Coinbase hinted the partnership could soon expand to “micropayments,” which would allow users to pay tiny increments — the equivalent of a dime, for instance — for individual articles.

The move “opens the door for Time Inc. and publishers like it to familiarize themselves with the bitcoin technology and explore new applications across the industry,” said Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.

While bitcoin has become a popular option for major businesses, regulators have remained wary of the virtual currency's untraceability. Bitcoin’s anonymity has caused it to become a preferred currency of cyber criminals.

Federal officials have called for a regulatory framework and New York state's top banking regulator released strict cybersecurity guidelines for financial firms using bitcoins.

For now, some of Time’s biggest magazines — Sports Illustrated, People and Food and Wine — will not be included in the program.

Still, Armstrong said, “For a major publisher like Time Inc. to embrace Bitcoin sends an important message to both its readers and to the broader media community.”