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Help us make an app for a history magazine.
July 30, 2012 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I serve on the editorial board of a historical publication that walks the line between scholarly and popular articles. It is a magazine format publication, known for the high quality of its illustrations as well as articles. How do we create an iPad (and maybe Android) app for the magazine?

The magazine shall remain nameless, but it is a really strong publication.

The editor would like an attractive app which includes the ability to make in-app purchases of either single copies or subscriptions. also desired are the ability to do some multimedia add-ons to the print edition, including photo essays, podcasts, and videos. The models are the Smithsonian magazine app and BBC History magazine. (Though we are open to other models--suggest away! And yes I saw this thread.)

Where do we start? A conversation with one developer resulted in a price quote of $50,000. Googling "creating a magazine app" gets a dizzying number of results.

I guess I am looking for recommendations of readings, companies to work with, and questions and concerns that we don't know enough to have thought of yet. And if you are a magazine editor who has been down this road, talk to me!
posted by LarryC to Technology (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is what Woopie is for, you might want to drop them an email!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:20 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What kind of in-house development resources do you have?

For in-app purchases, are you ok with paying Apple their cut?

Are you currently publishing the magazine online? If so, how reusable is the content? Are you publishing it as clean, modern HTML + CSS? If so, one of the toolkits like Sencha Touch or jQuery Mobile along with PhoneGap might fit the bill for your development.

Your developer quote doesn't sound high at all, to me - I work for a company that does some mobile development, and that actually sounds pretty cheap.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:46 PM on July 30, 2012


Well 50k sounds huge but do you do the budget for the print version or web site? Including all the editorial and technical folks salaries? How many are full time and are there more than one that makes over 50k a year (remember real cost is about double salary)?

If you have a current workflow that is "write one, publish automatically to both print and web" then you are probably well along the re-purpose/re-flow path.

A version of the web site that is oriented towards mobile browser could be a more practical approach.
posted by sammyo at 2:52 PM on July 30, 2012


Texterity is another company that might be worth checking out. They've been converting magazines for years.
posted by sammyo at 2:54 PM on July 30, 2012


I don't know the answers to al the questions--I'll see if I can get the editor over here--but here are a few:

Currently, there is no magazine website. The magazine is produced in some sort of publishing software, I believe Adobe InDesign, and sent off to the printer.

Yes, I believe we are prepared to give Apple their cut.

There is limited in-house tech support.
posted by LarryC at 3:24 PM on July 30, 2012


2 things to look at-

1- Adobe Digital Publishing Suite-- If you are already doing it in inDesign it is quite easy to use (works like a plugin for InDesign); there are downsides like the file sizes being very large. This is the software a lot of magazines are using (Wired, for example). I am not sure what the costs of this would be; looks like $495 a month.

2- Maz Digital which I am told converts from PDFs to iPad. Looks like $299/month.

I work a little bit in this world and have some experience only with Digital Publishing Suite. I like a lot of things about it but there are some serious downsides with file size (every page is a picture; that adds up quickly especially when designing for Retina displays), no text selectability (again, because every page is a picture, not text and images), etc. I don't have any experience with Maz Digital, but again, they may be worth a look.
posted by matcha action at 4:30 PM on July 30, 2012


I know the owner of Maz Digital. Great company.
posted by dfriedman at 5:22 PM on July 30, 2012


I am a developer, but not your developer. I am also not primarily a mobile developer. That said:

Creating an app is not a one-time expense, and you will get yourself into trouble if you behave as though it is. There is absolutely guaranteed to be an ongoing maintenance cost for any software - in this case it starts with wanting to add features (you will, everyone always does), but also includes support for operating system upgrades.

I'm not saying definitely don't do it... just be aware that there will be noticeable ongoing costs - consider hiring a developer or two full time instead of contractors.

And fwiw, it sounds like HTML5 and a fancy website is the cheapest and most futureproof solution for your needs. It has the advantage of being usable by anyone with a net connection, but the disadvantage of not having the apple ecosystem to leverage.
posted by contrarian at 7:51 PM on July 30, 2012


Thanks, all. Some responses and comments from the editor:

What kind of in-house development resources do you have?

Editor: Not much. An in-house designer who would learn skills necessary to design mag for app but not programming skills.

Are you currently publishing the magazine online? If so, how reusable is the content? Are you publishing it as clean, modern HTML + CSS? If so, one of the toolkits like Sencha Touch or jQuery Mobile along with PhoneGap might fit the bill for your development.

Editor: Not currently online, but thanks for the suggestions.

Well 50k sounds huge but do you do the budget for the print version or web site? Including all the editorial and technical folks salaries? How many are full time and are there more than one that makes over 50k a year (remember real cost is about double salary)?

Editor: Costs for print version are covered; an app/digital version would have to be incorporated into existing workflow. Not sure how to do this.

If you have a current workflow that is "write one, publish automatically to both print and web" then you are probably well along the re-purpose/re-flow path.

Editor: I’ve seen sessions about this at publishing conferences but have yet to understand how to do it.

A version of the web site that is oriented towards mobile browser could be a more practical approach.

Editor: Yes, but there is the dream of something more beautiful. Plus, we also publish books and so skills learned for magazine also can be applied to books. Right now have converted a few old books—nothing fancy—and sell through Apple, Amazon, etc. We use Adobe suite now and so have done a bit of research into Adobe Publisher as a way of creating apps. Thoughts about that program?
posted by LarryC at 2:40 PM on August 2, 2012


Woop.ie just came out from under wraps today. I am familiar with it because it's the platform Read Idea is published on, and you can see what that looks like on various devices. You should apply for the alpha!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on August 3, 2012


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